Wednesday, September 03, 2008

ISS Future in Question

If you feel like you might have missed something over the last few days, don't feel like the lone ranger. I have been hearing ever so much more frequently lately, from varied political camps that renewed considerations should be given to halting shuttle service flights to the ISS at the "end" of the fleet's service life. Those of you that have listened to me long enough know that I have harped on the "all your eggs in one basket" mentality that seemed to be rampant at NASA. Having no fall back or rescue craft seemed incredibly short sighted. And then halting shuttle flights with no stop gap seemed well passed foolhardy. But when I start hearing those sentiments echoed by politicians not known to be all that interested in anything past their political boundries, I have to pause and think...wait...just whats going on? I know, I hear ya saying, well with the Russian/Georgia thing going on, it strains our working relationship. Your right but only to a point. It seems a lot of the ill will is the waiver that Russia had been enjoying for a time now is about to expire. That waiver being, signing the accord to abide by a rulling not to participate in proliferation of WMDs. (I know there it is again. someone screaming about WMDs) The thinking is that with tensions building and the exemption about to age off, we are likely to find personel in a position of not being able to get to or return from orbit. From the Wired blog:
  • Without a new waiver, U.S. astronauts would be stuck without a ride from 2011 until a new human vehicle is ready around 2015. NASA needs the waiver approved this year to get a Soyuz by 2012 because the Russian spacecraft take three years to build. Many think that this waiver will be harder to get given Russia's recent actions.
Of course it's not as simplistic as saying don't halt shuttle missions. The reason being the ISS depends on the Russian Soyuz and support craft for supplies and rescue. So without the Russian contingent we couldn't go to full crew on the ISS or stay for anything longer that a week or two. The other problem is that the Shuttle program is not in full swing and then just stops. NASA started phasing out shuttles TEN years ago. It's now a problem of parts, service and replacements that have been totally removed from the equation. This train wreck is going to happen if we like it or not.

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