I’ve got a couple of other posts I want to write about soon, and I’m about 75% finished with my final Orbital Access Methodologies post. But unfortunately, for the next week I’m not going to have much of any free-time at home or at work, so light blogging is going to continue for a while.
That said, here’s a brief thought about “the gap”, spurred on by Clark and Rand’s recent posts on the subject. I really am not a fan of keeping the shuttle flying. It’s time to let go. A lot of the subcomponents are no longer being made. It doesn’t really keep us with access to the ISS because we’d still have to rely on the Russians for lifeboats. Sure, we could visit it once or twice a year, but is that really worth the billions it would take to keep the Shuttle flying? I don’t think so.
Quite frankly, I’d almost rather see a gap than try filling it with a kludge like keeping the shuttle flying. The fundamental problem is that even though “commercial” companies like Boeing and LM and Orbital (and hopefully SpaceX if they can get their act together) have been providing the majority of US spacelift for the past two decades, there is no commercial supplier of manned orbital spaceflight in the US. That’s the bigger problem, IMO than the fact that NASA can’t access a space station that it really doesn’t have much use for.
I’d rather see more focus on how NASA and DoD can help encourage and grow a strong and thriving commercial spaceflight (manned and unmanned) sector than how NASA can fix its broken internal spaceflight problems. Once the US actually gets to the point where it has a thriving manned orbital spaceflight sector, there won’t be any gaps again in the future. A strong commercial spaceflight sector with a weak NASA is still a lot better than a strong NASA and a weak commercial spaceflight sector.
Anyhow, I’ve got to head to work. There’s my $.02 for the day.