Kilroy Was Here
February 03, 2003
The Space Shuttle Must Be Stopped
Gregg Easterbrook is one of those members of think tank organizations (aka "thinkers") that I always try to read when I run accross them. In the latest Time Magazine, Easterbrook makes a compelling and complete argument for why The Space Shuttle Must Be Stopped.
Easterbrook argues that NASA (and by proxy Congress) has used an inefficient, obsolete, and dangerous delivery vehicle, purely as a way to fund pork in their own districts. As Easterbrook points out:
Capitalism, of course, is supposed to weed out such inefficiencies. But in the American system, the shuttle's expense made the program politically attractive. Originally projected to cost $5 million per flight in today's dollars, each shuttle launch instead runs to around $500 million. Aerospace contractors love the fact that the shuttle launches cost so much.
Easterbrook argues that the best course of action would be to can the space shuttle program and to replace it with unmanned throw-away rockets to push cargo into space and a small space plane for the few times that humans are really needed.
Will this happen? Probably not. As Easterbrook points out, Congresses reaction to the earlier Challenger tragedy was disingenous.
Large manned-space-flight centers that depend on the shuttle are in Texas, Ohio, Florida and Alabama. Congressional delegations from these states fought frantically against a shuttle replacement. The result was years of generous funding for constituents—and now another tragedy.
Perhaps it's time to write my congressman and senators on the issue. I mean, if we can close down military bases in the name of a more efficient military, I am sure that we can close down the space shuttle in the name of a more efficient and safe space strategy.
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