Press Release

‘A Ride of a Century’ NSS Congratulates the Crew of Discovery on their historic repair of the Space Shuttle

By SpaceRef Editor
August 3, 2005
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The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates astronaut Steve Robinson and the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery for their successful maneuver to remove extra gap-filler from the orbiter’s underside.

This first-ever orbital repair of the shuttle is an important milestone for future human missions in space. NSS applauds NASA’s astronaut corps for showing that they still have the ‘right stuff,’ and expresses confidence that the agency’s efforts will have far-reaching benefits for the future of human space travel.

“This test flight has made significant strides toward returning the shuttle to safe flight,” said NSS Executive Director George Whitesides. “While the unexpected foam release on launch is certainly a cause for future concern, Robinson’s deft spacewalk today and the 80 percent overall reduction in foam release demonstrates that the hard work of NASA’s engineers is paying off.”

New imaging and analysis techniques were developed for the Space Shuttle fleet after the loss of Columbia in 2003. These new tools have performed beyond the expectations of NASA’s engineers, yielding a significant quantity of new data. The lessons learned will not only make future Space Shuttle flights safer, they will enable NASA and private industry to design and build better, more advanced spacecraft to carry people back to the Moon and on to Mars.

“Just as important as the decades of research NASA has done to learn how human beings adapt to living in space, NASA is now making important progress in learning how spacecraft themselves fare during flight,” said Whitesides. “Moreover, the ability to make repairs in orbit is one that will be absolutely fundamental for future long-duration spaceflight.”

While NASA engineers and scientists are justifiably concerned by the separation on launch of a piece of the External Tank’s foam insulation, the National Space Society calls on NASA leadership, the media and the American public to stand with the seven Discovery astronauts in orbit and remember that human spaceflight is worth the risk.

“Just as in the early days of aviation, when pioneers like Amelia Earhart willingly risked their lives to open new frontiers, sending astronauts into orbit is still a dangerous venture,” said Gregory Allison, chair of the society’s policy committee and a space risk mitigation expert. “Every industry and sector of society today benefits from safe, reliable and affordable air travel. If we had instead halted development of new aircraft and modern jet engines every time a test pilot crashed, the airline industry as we know it today would not exist. Spaceflight today is at a similar stage of evolution, with countless challenges and unforeseen obstacles looming on the horizon. We must now address these risks to the best of our ability and then move ahead decisively to tackle the next challenges in our great voyage to explore and understand space.”

About the National Space Society

The National Space Society (NSS) is an independent, grassroots organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Founded in 1974, NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space. NSS counts thousands of members and over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The society also publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. For more information about NSS, how to join or donate, or the annual International Space Development Conference, visit: http://www.nss.org

National Space Society
George T. Whitesides
Executive Director
george@nss.org
(202) 429-1600

SpaceRef staff editor.