End of US shuttle program poses safety risks: panel

Jan 13, 2011
The space shuttle Discovery. A climate of uncertainty in the US space program combined with the approaching retirement of the shuttle missions presents safety risks, a government advisory panel said Thursday.

A climate of uncertainty in the US space program combined with the approaching retirement of the shuttle missions presents safety risks, a government advisory panel said Thursday.

"Lack of clarity and constancy of purpose among NASA, Congress, and the White House is a key safety concern," the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel said in its annual report.

"From the aspect of safety, the lack of a defined mission can negatively affect workforce morale and the ability to attract and maintain the necessary skill sets needed for this high-technology venture," it said.

The report came on the heels of news that NASA was bickering with US senators over plans to build a new spacecraft and rocket to replace the by 2016.

The US space agency says the current vision for a new and spacecraft would be too complicated to finish in the time constraints set forth by Congress, and too expensive given the budget it is allocated.

Meanwhile, the safety panel noted that once the shuttle fleet retires later this year, the United States, Europe, Japan will be dependent on vehicles for transport to the .

While it did not criticize the safety record of the Russian space program, the panel said that because only one form of transport is available, risks will inherently increase.

"Any time one depends on a single-source solution, one runs the added risk of interruption in service due to some unforeseen contingency affecting that source," it said.

"We have no evidence that Progress and Soyuz will be anything but as reliable as they have been; however, risk rises as the simple offshoot of dependence on a single-source provider."

The panel said it would continue to study "the risks inherent in this single-source service scenario" over the coming year.

Plans to get a commercial spacecraft in operation to replace the US shuttle flights are about a year behind schedule, it said.

The advisory group also urged NASA, Congress and the White House to "quickly reach a consensus position on the agency's future and our nation's future in space."

The report noted that President Barack Obama has signed a bill "that reoriented the Agency's human spaceflight efforts; however, NASA's future human exploration mission plans are uncertain."

The panel was first established by Congress in 1968 after a deadly fire killed three astronauts on the Apollo I during a launch pad test.

Explore further: Mysteries of space dust revealed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA to get more money, but must scratch moon plan

Jan 28, 2010

(AP) -- President Barack Obama is essentially grounding efforts to return astronauts to the moon and instead is sending NASA in new directions with roughly $6 billion more, according to officials familiar with the plans.

US Senate votes to extend space shuttle program

Jul 16, 2010

A key Senate panel approved Thursday a 2011 budget proposal for the US space agency NASA that would extend the space shuttle program in a compromise from the Obama administration's demands.

NASA: Money key to more space shuttle flights

Mar 09, 2010

(AP) -- With space shuttle retirement just months away, a senior NASA manager said Tuesday it wouldn't be hard to add more flights, provided the nation is willing to keep paying $200 million a month.

NASA to speed up shuttle launch schedule

Jan 06, 2008

NASA officials in Washington plan to double the number of shuttle flights to hasten the completion of the International Space Station amid safety concerns.

Recommended for you

Mysteries of space dust revealed

Aug 29, 2014

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

A guide to the 2014 Neptune opposition season

Aug 29, 2014

Never seen Neptune? Now is a good time to try, as the outermost ice giant world reaches opposition this weekend at 14:00 Universal Time (UT) or 10:00 AM EDT on Friday, August 29th. This means that the distant ...

Informing NASA's Asteroid Initiative: A citizen forum

Aug 28, 2014

In its history, the Earth has been repeatedly struck by asteroids, large chunks of rock from space that can cause considerable damage in a collision. Can we—or should we—try to protect Earth from potentially ...

Image: Rosetta's comet looms

Aug 28, 2014

Wow! Rosetta is getting ever-closer to its target comet by the day. This navigation camera shot from Aug. 23 shows that the spacecraft is so close to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that it's difficult to ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

boznz
1 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2011
Scrap the space shuttle while it still has some dignity left.

..and while your at it scrap advisory panels which lets face it are there because administrators cant or wont do their jobs and is just more space money going into "jobs for the boys"
1gaetanomarano
not rated yet Jan 14, 2011
.
.
.
the "commercial space" CAN'T replace the Space Shuttle and can put the $200 billion ISS under the serious risk to DIE soon!!!
.
ghostnasa.com/posts2/072issdeath.html
.
.
.
bobtrain
not rated yet Jan 14, 2011
Compare the NASA and military space programs and you will see where the money and directions are going. The advisory panel represents the beneficiaries of both funding sources.