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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jul 14, 2005 18:39:45 GMT -6
NASA and White House Discuss Early Shuttle Fleet Retirement
NASA is considering retiring a Space Shuttle orbiter in 2007 and beginning modifications to one Shuttle launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center under a plan now being reviewed at NASA headquarters, according to senior agency sources.
Driving the idea of a phased retirement of the space vehicles are two concerns. The first is a desire for finding new sources of funds to pay for advancement of the President's moon-to-Mars plan. And secondly NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin's fears of a third Shuttle accident.
A source familiar with Griffin's thinking said he is worried that an age-related malfunction would trigger a Shuttle catastrophe. As a result, the space chief is seeking to retire the individual Space Shuttle orbiters as quickly as possible.
Another Shuttle manifest being looked at would yield only 12 to 15 total remaining flights including the STS-114 mission. This is in sharp contrast to the 28 to 30 Shuttle flights which NASA had previously identified under Sean O'Keefe as being required to finish the ISS prior to Griffin's appointment as administrator. The obvious conclusion is that a significant amount of already completed ISS hardware would no longer be lofted - at least not by a Space Shuttle. Another flight would presumably be used to mount a Hubble servicing mission - something Griffin has suggested he would support.
No final decision has been made - but discussions continued as Discovery was being prepared for launch.