Next Shuttle Launch Set for May 14; Hutchison and Kosmas Defend Human Spaceflight

Next Shuttle Launch Set for May 14; Hutchison and Kosmas Defend Human Spaceflight

Following a Flight Readiness Review today, NASA set May 14 as the launch date for the next shuttle mission, STS-132. Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to launch at 2:20 pm EDT on a 12-day flight to the International Space Station to deliver the Russian Mini Research Module-1 and other equipment and supplies.

Only two more missions remain on the shuttle manifest after this flight: STS-133 scheduled for September and STS-134 now expected in November carrying the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). That flight date is very tentative depending on progress in changing the magnet on the AMS.

Meanwhile, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Representative Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) co-authored a Letter to the Editor published in today’s Washington Post. They challenged the Post’s assertion in an April 23 editorial that human spaceflight wins political support because of its “romantic attraction.” The two politicians argued that “We send humans into space to advance science and technology, not for vanity,” and criticized the current plan to end the space shuttle program and the Constellation program because of the risk it poses to the health of the International Space Station. They say that —

“One problem in the president’s proposal is that it does not address the risk to the station that will result from retiring the space shuttle and canceling the Constellation replacement program at the same time. A healthy and viable space station is critical to the emergence of the commercial space industry that the president’s proposal relies on. If the space station is lost, the primary reason to send humans into space in the next decade will be lost.”

Hutchison and Kosmas have each introduced legislation (S. 3068/H.R. 4804) to tie the date for retiring the shuttle to the availability of a government or commercial alternative.

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