Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Discovery Returns Home

The space shuttle Discovery returned home on today's third landing attempt. Weather forced the Discovery to land at Edwards Air Force Base instead of the Kennedy Space Center, marking the first time the shuttle landed at Edwards since Endeavor landed there in June 2002.

The obvious question now is, "what next?" NASA's discomfort with Discovery's reentry was evident throughout the mission which included an unprecedented EVA beneath the shuttle to inspect tiles and repear protruding tile spacers. The manned space program can ill-afford another disaster, and the aging shuttle fleet are increasingly problematic.

That the US needs and benefits tremendously from a manned space program is not in doubt. What form that program should take is the debate. The Grape does not see a future in a shuttle type design, nor is there a future in government funded low earth orbit exploration. Man's future is deep space, and the primary focus of our manned program should be just that. Leave low earth orbit to private corporations and focus NASA's attention on deep space or manned planetary exploration. As to the shuttle, it's time to move on.


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