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How To End The Shuttle Program

Louise Riofrio has an interesting idea, but I haven't given it enough thought to have much of an opinion.


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Jim Bennett wrote:

How about just auctioning the Shuttles off "FOB Low Earth Orbit" -- in other words, letting private buyers figure out what to do with an orbiter already in space. Their bids could include (some) modifications to the orbiters to be performed prior to launch. The price would include rides for company personnel in the leftover seats, although of course getting back would be their own problem.

It would be interesting to see what people would propose. Perhaps an initial step would be for NASA to solicit public input on what might be done in such an instance and post the responses.

It might be easier than writing the EIS for deliberately crashing an uncontrolled orniter back onto the planet.

K wrote:

Don't be silly. NASA needs those Shuttle hulks to entertain the public during their tours of the NASA facilities.

FC wrote:

NASA would rather that no one die in space than that anyone live in space.

Roger Strong wrote:

Instead of using fuel to lower the abandoned shuttle's orbit for reentry, could it significantly *raise* it's orbit? Say, to an orbit that would last 50 years unattended? You could perhaps leave the landing gear and other bits on the ground to save weight.

50 years later it might be considered valuable enough to preserve further as an on-orbit museum piece. Or even simply as mass - aluminum, glass etc. for orbital manufacturing. *Something* other than throwing it away.

Roger Strong wrote:

What about leaving one of the Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules berthed to the station?

It seems like a cheap way to get an extra storage space. The MPLMs provide at least some of their own life support, fire detection and suppression, electrical distribution and computer functions.

If you don't want it berthed there *permanently*, offer it "take it away, as is" as a cheap extra module to anyone purchasing a Bigelow station. Fill it with any still-working equipment you no longer have room for.

Since both the MPLMs and the SpaceX Dragon have a standard ISS Common Berthing Mechanism, perhaps a Dragon Cargo could ferry it over. Same with the Japanese HTV.

It would require the Bigelow station to be in a similar orbit as ISS, but that sounds like a good thing to do for safety and other reasons anyway.

Ken Talton wrote:

A space mullberry...interesting.

The arrangement would have the advantage of providing a handy spare toilet....

One other thing springs immediately to mind.
A habitable, variable gravity research facility.
The obiters are robust enough to survive re-entry and likely a bit overbuilt. Thus, given its length, and with the habitable section in the nose, it is possible that an orbiter could be spun end over end at varying speeds to determine the optimum nausea versus spin arm length ratio.
Also it could determine what the minimum gravity necessary for long term health really is. This is a nontrivial issue given that the planets we would be looking at settling all have rather less surface gravity than Earth.

Then there's always that voyage to Titan....

tps wrote:

"Then there's always that voyage to Titan...."

I just reread that book (Stephen Baxter's 'Titan') the other day too. Took me most of an afternoon to get out of the funk it put me in. It is one depressing book!

I do like Louise's idea for the shuttles though. Even if you burn them up over the Pacific its better then molding away with the landing gear stuck in concrete.

Josh Reiter wrote:

I say put a plaque on it commemorating all that served on her and died. Then float it out to sea, viking style.

Mike G in Corvallis wrote:

A shuttle could make a nice Mars Descent Module., and there would be enough room in the cargo bay for an Ascent Module, too. A little reminiscent of this ... Of course, you'd need something big to get it to Mars. I vote for the original Orion spacecraft design, the nuclear one.

Or how about this? It might be very useful as ... dead weight. If we're serious about extended missions to -- or settlements on -- the Moon or Mars, wouldn't it be nice to know the long-term effects of low gravity, 1/6 or 3/8 of Earth's? Build a habitat module and cable it to the orbiter, and then rotate the assembly around the common center of gravity.

Rand Simberg wrote:

A shuttle could make a nice Mars Descent Module., and there would be enough room in the cargo bay for an Ascent Module, too.

Nope. It has far too much dead weight. The wings would be useless in the Martian atmosphere.

Mike G in Corvallis wrote:

Nope. It has far too much dead weight. The wings would be useless in the Martian atmosphere.

Didn't the nuclear Orion craft tip you off that I wasn't entirely serious? (Actually, I'd love to see a nuclear Orion mission to Mars ...)

Even if the orbiter could make it down to ground level safely, the landing speed would be enormous in that atmosphere ... and I wouldn't want to try it on an unpaved runway.

I do think the shuttle's mass would be useful as a counterweight in a rotating station. But then, for three decades I've also thought that they should take the external tanks to orbit, just so they'd be available in case somebody wants to do something useful with them. Does anyone at NASA listen to me? Noooo ... ;-)

LB Parker wrote:

How about using it as a counterweight for a space elevator? They'll need the mass up there anyway.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on June 12, 2008 2:54 PM.

Sauce For The Goose was the previous entry in this blog.

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