NASA administrator says space shuttle was a mistake

From: Andrew Johnson

Date: 2005-09-30 10:12:11… administrator says space shuttle was a mistakeBy Traci WatsonUSA TODAYThe space shuttle and International Space Station – nearly the whole of the U.S. manned space program for the past three decades – were mistakes, NASA chief Michael Griffin said Tuesday.In a meeting with USA TODAY’s editorial board, Griffin said NASA lost its way in the 1970s, when the agency ended the Apollo moon missions in favor of developing the shuttle and space station, which can only orbit Earth.”It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path,” Griffin said. “We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can.”The shuttle has cost the lives of 14 astronauts since the first flight in 1982. Roger Pielke Jr., a space policy expert at the University of Colorado, estimates that NASA has spent about $150 billion on the program since its inception in 1971. The total cost of the space station by the time it’s finished – in 2010 or later – may exceed $100 billion, though other nations will bear some of that.Only now is the nation’s space program getting back on track, Griffin said. He announced last week that NASA aims to send astronauts back to the moon in 2018 in a spacecraft that would look like the Apollo capsule.The goal of returning Americans to the moon was laid out by President Bush in 2004, before Griffin took the top job at NASA. Bush also said the shuttle would be retired in 2010.Griffin has made clear in previous statements that he regards the shuttle and space station as misguided. He told the Senate earlier this year that the shuttle was “deeply flawed” and that the space station was not worth “the expense, the risk and the difficulty” of flying humans to space.But since he became NASA administrator, Griffin hasn’t been so blunt about the two programs.Asked Tuesday whether the shuttle had been a mistake, Griffin said, “My opinion is that it was. . It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible.” Asked whether the space station had been a mistake, he said, “Had the decision been mine, we would not have built the space station we’re building in the orbit we’re building it in.”Joe Rothenberg, head of NASA’s manned space programs from 1995 to 2001, defended the programs for providing lessons about how to operate in space. But he conceded that “in hindsight, there may have been other ways.”

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