Vol. 28, No. 4 (Winter
Some Thoughts on the Columbia Disaster
and How to Proceed from Here
Klaus P. Heiss
The Space Shuttle 'Columbia' disaster in February of this year
has led to a basic re-examination of the question of human space
flight and how best to explore the solar system and worlds beyond.
In April of this year NASA presented its Long Term plan for
Space Exploration. A close reading of which would have one conclude
that NASA was about to abandon Space exploration by humans in
preference of robotic missions and in this process also dump
the Space Shuttle and initiate a so-called 'Orbital Space Plane'
that was but a reusable Apollo type capsule launched on an expendable
rocket - a 'vision' soundly rejected in the early 1970s.
Provoked by this 'stealth' termination of Space exploration
by humans the author composed the Memorandum published herein,
addressed to Vice President Cheney and the White House, in which
he argued that not only should the exploration of Space by humans
continue, building on the half-completed reusable Space Transportation
system (the Space Shuttle of today), but a historic new goal
for human Space exploration could be set, to be achieved within
a decade and at a cost of less than a doubling of the steadily
shrinking NASA budget: the establishment of the first permanent
human settlement on the Moon.
The author further suggested that an internal assessment effort
of say three to four months would confirm the basic claims made
herein and become the basis for a Presidential decision to such
effect. Indications are that such a decision is forthcoming
- dramatically reversing the course set by the Space bureaucracy
a few months ago.