I wish I could get a sweet gig like this. I could have given NASA much better advice than this study, for a lot less than three hundred thousand:
The study by George Washington University researchers urged the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to cut down on shuttle flights by limiting construction on the space station and to reinvest extra funds in developing a new manned vehicle. NASA could use shuttles as remote-controlled cargo ships to finish the station, the report said.
No matter how many times people make that recommendation, it remains fundamentally wrong, and displays an ignorance of economics, and the purpose of the Shuttle. There’s no point in flying it at all if you’re going to fly it without crew, and no way to justify the expense of maintaining the infrastructure for it. The astronauts, who are paid and willing to risk their lives, are the least valuable element of the system, and NASA has an oversupply of them. NASA only has three orbiters left, and if it loses one more, it will almost be out of the Shuttle business anyway, regardless of whether or not more astronauts are lost.
But I can’t get my head around this bizarre notion that some seem to have that sending people into space is supposed to be risk free. What is it about that environment, unlike the sea, coal mines, construction, or any other activity in which people die all the time, that make some people check their brains at the door?
NASA at least had an appropriately diplomatic response:
Erica Hupp, a spokeswoman for NASA, said the organization “appreciates all the work that George Washington University put into its study. We are working toward the same goal to make human space flight more reliable and less hazardous.”
Translation: thanks for the clueless advice, but no thanks. What a waste of money.
[Update on Saturday morning]
Keith Cowing isn’t very impressed, either.