Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hitching Rides

Too many times I have read the claim that with the retirement of the Space Shuttle this year NASA will be "hitching rides with the Russians" to the International Space Station. A number of writers have taken it upon themselves to stress that Shuttle retirement was a decision made by the Bush administration, not by the Obama administration, and although this is true I think it is really beside the point.

It has always been the plan to fly expedition members to the ISS on the Soyuz. That was the deal, the Shuttle builds the station and the Soyuz rotates the crew. Since late 2000, that's exactly what the Soyuz has done, and a permanent human presence has been maintained on the ISS. Every time the Shuttle flies to the ISS it is for a visit, of no more than 10 days as that is the limit of on-orbit endurance of the Shuttle.

If the shuttle wasn't retiring this year the missions they would be doing would be resupply - and maybe some more experimental hardware installations - the same kind of stuff they do now. What they wouldn't be doing, couldn't be doing, is delivering crew to stay on the station for any significant length of time.

Now, I can understand journalists, politicians, and dipshits on the Internet bemoaning the retirement of the Shuttle as the end of how NASA gets expedition members to the ISS - a position that is simply false in fact, as well as impractical on merit - but I have no idea why sensible educated people who have any idea how the ISS program operates would repeat this stupid meme; unless they are deliberately being dishonest.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:30 PM

    One reason to consider is that the news media loves that status quo - see http://climateprogress.org/2009/03/30/newsweek-evan-thomas-status-quo-establishment-media-coverage-global-warming/.
    In my opinion, those "sensible educated people" are just too comfortable with the status quo.

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  2. Anonymous2:19 AM

    Another reason is that we don't have much leverage in the area of price. It went up, it could go up again.

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  3. Anonymous3:40 AM

    it is fair if the price goes up.

    there is no competition, so why wouldnt they try to raise the price when it is renegotiated?

    you bleeding heart liberals should let the free market act. sad how russia is more capitalist than america.

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  4. Heinrich8:01 AM

    That's a nice point that I had not appreciated. With regard to crew transport for duty on ISS, the Shuttle has been out of the loop since last year. We have been wholly reliant on Soyuz for up- and down-transport of humans for a long time.

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