Legislation Being Drafted to Keep Space Shuttle Flying

Legislation Being Drafted to Keep Space Shuttle Flying

Senate Commerce Committee staffer Jeff Bingham told a symposium on human spaceflight and the future of space science that legislation is being drafted in the Senate to enable and enhance research on the International Space Station (ISS). Among other things, the legislation would extend the space shuttle program until a U.S. alternative is available.

Bingham stressed the need to extend ISS operations beyond 2015 in order to make effective use of its scientific capabilities, and to have two ways to get crews back and forth to the ISS, not just one as will be true once the shuttle program is terminated. He pointed out that the Columbia disaster proved the wisdom of having a second transportation system – Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. Without it, he said, the ISS would have been lost. If Soyuz becomes the only crew transport system for many years, which is the current plan, ISS astronauts would be vulnerable to a Soyuz mishap. What would happen, he queried, if there was a Soyuz accident while returning some ISS crew members, but other ISS crew members were still aboard the station. Their only way back to Earth would be another Soyuz spacecraft and they would be stranded there until the causes of the accident were known and corrected.

Bingham expressed skepticism about whatever plan is proposed by the Obama Administration because in his view it is being developed by the same mid-level White House staff – particularly at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) – who came up with the Bush policy of terminating the shuttle and the ISS. As for where the money will come from to keep them going, he implored the audience to “not drink the OMB Kool-Aid that we have a zero sum budget.”

Bingham explained that when or if the legislation will be introduced is up to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), for whom he works, and other Senators.

The January 14 symposium was sponsored by George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and the Universities Space Research Association.

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