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Space Shuttle, Station Were Mistakes : NASA Chief

Washington (AFP) Sep 28, 2005
NASA's chief had harsh words for the space shuttle and International Space Station, calling them costly strategic mistakes in an interview out Wednesday that raised doubts about US commitment to getting the shuttle back in flight.

Asked by the daily USA Today if the decision to build a shuttle back in the 1970s, to replace the Apollo program, was a mistake, Michael Griffin said: "It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path. We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can. My opinion is that it was" a mistake.

"It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible. Had the decision been mine, we would not have built the space station we're building in the orbit we're building it in," Griffin added.

The shuttle fleet, which has flown since 1981, has had two major disasters, with the 1986 Challenger explosion and 2003 in-flight breakup of the Columbia, claiming the lives of 14 astronauts. Amid concerns about the aging fleet, President George W. Bush decided to end flights in 2010.

The Columbia accident suspended flights for two and one half years. Problems with getting the shuttle back in service in mid-2005 lent weight to some people's argument that the current shuttle simply should be abandoned in favor of an upcoming replacement vehicle.

That vehicle was expected to fly from 2012 but might be able to get into service sooner if NASA stops spending on shuttles and instead focuses on it.

"If we intend to keep our commitments and are unable to finish with the shuttle, then (we) will use the new system. It comes down to writing the check. (The shuttle) might not have been able to fly again at all. Of course, if additional bad things happen, we'll reevaluate," Griffin told The Washington Post on September 22.

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