Tuesday, May 12, 2009
"Retire shuttles" poll
Is it time to retire the current space shuttles?
Well, Shuttle Atlantis lifted off without a problem today but faces issues of old age, space debris, risky Hubble Telescope repairs, docking with the ISS, and a trip back to Earth. The Shuttle Atlantis first saw service in October 1985 and has completed 29 successful missions during that 24 year period. It has traveled about 104,531 miles and spent about 257 days in flight. The major focus of this mission is to repair an aged and broken space telescope...just to squeeze a few more years from its probing eyes. The Hubble Telescope has been a problem child from the beginning and is dying. But it will be replaced by the Webb Telescope. Nevertheless, this repair mission is quite risky--some 5 hours of extra vehicular work in a very dirty area of space. The risk is so high that a second shuttle is ready to blast off if an emergency arises. All of the shuttles are old. They have been retrofitted and spiffed up over the years but it is still a vulnerable and expensive craft serving space exploration well beyond its prime. I think it is time to ground the vehicles and continue research on alternate vehicles...and vigorously explore the use of probes, satellites, and the like.