An editorial in today’s Boston Globe raises a good point (and one a couple of my fellow TR.com bloggers have made in the past week or two): what’s the point of the space shuttle, anyway? It’s a tired, practically obsolete jalopy, a sad consequence of Congress’s starving of NASA over the last two decades, a machine whose only mission seems to be serving a space station that has limited scientific value. It does seem absurd to launch a vehicle into space–only to spend the most of the mission checking to see if it’s safe to come back again.
Instead, as the Globe advocates, let’s concentrate on what’s been successful:
While manned space exploration should continue to be a long-term goal of American science, the failure of the shuttle program argues strongly for concentrating on Mars robotic rovers, the space probes, and the Hubble space telescope, which are providing a wealth of new information about Earth’s planetary neighbors and the universe.The successes of these latter projects puts the shuttle program to shame.
Let the Russians resupply the international space station. Let’s repair Hubble, put up more rovers and probes, and begin to study how to send people to Mars. Meanwhile, the shuttle can stay permanently grounded–if it’s not already.