The next liftoff for NASA’s space shuttle is now slated for May 2005, more than two years after the in-flight disintegration of Columbia and over six months after the series of hurricanes shifted the schedule from March. There remain only 28 flights before the shuttles are to be taken out of commission at the end of the decade, with all of these spacecraft then being used to support the International Space Station (which is now under construction).
What with rovers and probes and private space flight and hypothetical missions of Mars, is anyone still interested in the International Space Station any more? The last crew spent most of its time repairing oxygen generators and spacesuits. For that matter, can the shuttle program gain back the momentum it once had after sitting the game out for 2+ long years? What’s been accomplished in all that time, or has the politics of risk aversion won out over technical considerations? Of course, I’m not the one flying in the shuttle–but it still seems to me that NASA is an agency struggling to re-find its mission.