Replace the Shuttle NOW!

As time goes, on, the overly complex Space Shuttle system becomes more and more ridiculous–the Shuttle has been grounded for over a year due to insulating foam. Now, the latest attempt to launch is in doubt due to more problems with . . . insulating foam[*1] .

Insulating foam, for crying out loud.

It’s way past time for NASA to get out of the way and let private entrepreneurs take a real crack at access to space. The good news is that current NASA Administrator Michael Griffin seems to be edging towards the same conclusion[*2] with this testimony in April before the Senate:

We also need your support for our effort to leverage the capabilities of commercial industry to demonstrate potentially cheaper means to deliver cargo, and later crew to the International Space Station.

Nice, but this doesn’t go far enough. NASA needs to bite the bullet and outsource human space flight completely. It’s time.

The Shuttle might launch today

Against a dimming sky after sunset, lights on the structures on Launch Pad 39B cast a warm glow on Space Shuttle Discovery. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Space Shuttle is scheduled to launch this afternoon, weather permitting (currently 40% chance of a weather problem). Bigger issue now is a small thruster at the rear of the orbiter, where a temperature sensor is causing problems. If that doesn’t clear up, they can’t launch. Where’s Burt Rutan when you need him?