July 28th, 2005


a modest proposal

NASA has just spent $1B on the return to flight program, with the result of one very lucky but successful flight and back to square one otherwise. This likely does not include the cost of actually launching Discovery, which probably approaches $1B on its own. I've always thought the Shuttle program was a bad idea anyway: it's an agglomeration of technical decisions made for political reasons, and without going through the litany of reasons they're a mistake technically, let's just say that I've seen enough product development cycles to know that that's not a good way to build something that works.

However, NASA has three orbiters on hand, and the space station is lacking in several capabilities that the orbiters possess.

Why not modify the orbiters so that they could fly attached to the ISS for extended periods of time, and leave one up there to provide boost, environmental, and emergency crew return capabilities to the station?

We could even continue to launch ISS components in the other two orbiters in the face of potentially fatal damage, by flying unmanned, or (if flying unmanned is not practical) by having seats available in a lifeboat orbiter on station so that a second orbiter could be abandoned with no loss of life.