Decision to End Shuttle Flights Nearly “Irreversible”

 Space Shuttle Atlantis launch, May 11, 2009


Extending the life of the space shuttle is all but impossible now because of an inability to manufacture additional external tanks, former space shuttle astronaut Jon McBride said on Wednesday.



NASA probably could fly one additional shuttle mission beyond the nine that are on the schedule through next year, said McBride, who is vice president of strategic development for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex/Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts.


“A real travesty” is how McBride characterized the decision during a lunchtime address at the Space Investment Summit 6 near Orlando. The space shuttle provides the United States with enormous capability for orbital operations. NASA will not fly the small, less capable Orion successor vehicle until at least 2015.


McBride noted that decisions made about five years ago to stop shuttle flights to concentrate resources on a successor vehicle are now coming home to roost. He said he didn’t understand why the United States couldn’t afford to operate the space shuttle, build a new human vehicle, and operate ISS at the same time.


McBride expressed concern that the United States is losing its edge in space. “We would like to be the first country back on the moon, and we may not be the first country back on the moon,” he remarked.