- The space shuttle and International Space Station – nearly the whole of the U.S. manned space program for the past three decades – were mistakes, NASA chief Michael Griffin said Tuesday.
In a meeting with USA TODAY's editorial board, Griffin said NASA lost its way in the 1970s, when the agency ended the Apollo moon missions in favor of developing the shuttle and space station, which can only orbit Earth.
Asked Tuesday whether the shuttle had been a mistake, Griffin said, "My opinion is that it was. ... It was a design which was extremely aggressive and just barely possible." Asked whether the space station had been a mistake, he said, "Had the decision been mine, we would not have built the space station we're building in the orbit we're building it in."
But now the space program is back on track, says Griffin. Apparently, we're just supposed to let bygones be bygones and treat NASA like a mischievous little boy who's learned his lesson and can now be trusted:
- [Griffin] announced last week that NASA aims to send astronauts back to the moon in 2018 in a spacecraft that would look like the Apollo capsule.
Maybe space entrepreneurs will already be on the moon to welcome the NASA crew.
- The shuttle has cost the lives of 14 astronauts since the first flight in 1982. Roger Pielke Jr., a space policy expert at the University of Colorado, estimates that NASA has spent about $150 billion on the program since its inception in 1971. The total cost of the space station by the time it's finished – in 2010 or later – may exceed $100 billion, though other nations will bear some of that.
Recent, related article of mine here.
(And let's wait and see if Griffin issues a face-saving "this is what I really meant to say" statement.)