Scott M. Kozel
2005-04-02 23:55:27 UTC
NASA Starts Planning to Retire Space Shuttle
By WARREN E. LEARY
Published: April 2, 2005
WASHINGTON, April 1 - Even as the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration prepares to resume flights of the space shuttle, the
agency has begun forming detailed plans to retire the spacecraft in five
years, if not before, a top NASA official said on Friday.
The official, Michael Kostelnik, the agency's deputy associate
administrator for the shuttle and the International Space Station
programs, said he had established a special group within his office to
deal with retiring the shuttle. Agency leaders decided to create a
separate entity to deal with shuttle retirement issues so there would be
no conflict of interest with the flight program, Mr. Kostelnik said in a
telephone briefing with reporters.
Within a year or so, Mr. Kostelnik said, NASA will have to start the
shuttle retirement process in earnest, moving toward canceling contracts
for shuttle-related supplies, decommissioning some sites and redirecting
or eliminating some of the work force.
"Transitioning these resources is a very complex problem," he said. He
added that after reviewing assets and work needs, NASA should begin
within a year to terminate some contracts for items like the shuttle's
external fuel tank and start planning how to mothball equipment and
structures used by the shuttle.
It would be premature to end shuttle activities until NASA determines
how many more shuttle flights are needed to complete the space station
and how many flights can be made each year before the planned end of the
program in 2010, Mr. Kostelnik said.
As part of President Bush's vision for NASA that he announced last year,
the shuttle is to resume flying until 2010, when it is scheduled to
complete the station, then be retired. The plan also calls for the
United States to stop using the station by 2017 and to redirect
resources from both programs to new space vehicles for exploring the
Moon and Mars.
The nation's fleet of three shuttles has been grounded since the
Columbia disaster on Feb. 1, 2003. After the program is revamped and the
spacecraft are modified, and if all recommendations made by Columbia
accident investigators have been carried out, shuttles are to resume
flights between May 15 and June 3.
Mr. Kostelnik acknowledged that it was taking NASA longer than expected
to complete all the reviews of design and procedural changes, as well as
the necessary paperwork and documentation required to satisfy a special
panel overseeing compliance with the recommendations. It will take at
least another two weeks to gather this information and deliver it to the
oversight panel, which is headed by the former astronauts Thomas P.
Stafford and Richard O. Covey, he said.
"Everybody would have liked to have had this work completed sooner," Mr.
Kostelnik said. "But it's just kind of the way it is, and we're not
going to cut short any of these milestones just to make an arbitrary
The Stafford-Covey panel on Wednesday indefinitely put off what was to
be its final meeting to assess NASA's return-to-flight progress, saying
it could not proceed without the necessary data. The group has said it
wants to deliver its final report on compliance at least a month before
the first flight.
[end of article]