… If no USG option to deliver cargo and crew to LEO is to be developed following the retirement of the Space Shuttle, the U.S. risks the failure to sustain and utilize a unique facility with a sunk cost of $55 billion on the U.S. side, and nearly $20 billion of international partner investment in addition.Why is Dr. Griffin so concerned about the ISS when he got rid of most of the ISS science and non-assembly engineering?
Why is he so concerned about the ISS when his exploration plan requires the ISS to be abandoned in 2016? If the commercial COTS cargo services do not get built, Griffin’s plan already leaves us with no ability to get cargo and crew to the ISS until 2017-2019, after the ISS is abandoned! Even if the ISS is kept until 2020, and funding appears out of the blue to both support ISS and develop Ares I/Orion at a “brisk” pace, having Ares I/Orion in, say, 2018 does not make that much a difference. Plus, let’s be clear: keeping that schedule is highly unlikely given the funding needs of the ISS.
The notion of abandoning the ISS just five years after completing it has been getting a lot of attention lately, but I have to wonder, what does “abandon” really mean? If the international partners wanted to continue funding and servicing and using it for…umm…whatever ISS is actually used for beyond being a self-licking lollipop, would NASA permit it?
More interestingly, if NASA decides to terminate its own involvement with ISS, and a private company wants to make use of the station for space tourism or other commercial purposes, would NASA stand in the way? Or would it mulishly insist on deorbiting the station despite (or to spite) the offer of commercial utilization? After the fiasco with Mir, it’s a valid question.