A congressman from Texas said yesterday that NASA’s shuttle program should be scrapped because it is too risky, and he vowed not to approve funding for manned spaceflight that relies on the three remaining shuttles.
NASA has made 113 shuttle flights since 1981, and 14 astronauts have died in two shuttle explosions. The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, killing seven astronauts.”
I oppose gratuitously risking our astronauts’ lives,” Mr. Barton said. “In my opinion, we cannot make the orbiter as safe as it needs to be.”
It is the second time in a week that a member of the Texas delegation — which generally supports NASA because of the number of people it employs at Johnson Space Center in Houston — has criticized the space agency.
The senator said concerns from engineers about damage to Columbia didn’t reach senior administrators.
“Without people, you don’t build the International Space Station, you don’t service the Hubble telescope and you don’t conduct space-based research,” he said.
NASA has said repeatedly it plans to resume shuttle operations and that the flights can be safe.
The agency is waiting for the independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board to complete its inquiry into the shuttle’s disintegration and come up with a list of recommendations to improve orbiter safety.
Mr. Barton was unwavering in his criticism of the program.
“I’m not saying ‘no’ to manned flight. I just don’t think we can have safe shuttle flights. I will support more resources for manned spaceflight, but I’m through turning a blind eye to an accident rate” of two shuttle wrecks for every 113 flights, he said. “An accident rate of one every 62½ missions if 14 Americans have lost their lives is not acceptable.”
NASA hopes to fly the shuttle through the middle of the next decade.View Entire Story
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