Spacewalking astronauts plug in new cooling pump

Astronaut Emerges From ISS Airlock For Radiator Repair August 2010.png
Congratulations to the ISS crew for replacing a persnickety cooling pump, as reported by the AP in Spacewalking astronauts plug in new cooling pump.

AmericaSpace Note: The real issue of the cooling pump was not one of whether the astronauts could get the job done–these folks always seem to come through no matter how bad it gets.

The real worry about the cooling pump failure was that it brought to mind the issue of what happens to ISS after the Shuttle is retired should something fail for which there is no longer a back-up and is too massive to be launched to ISS? What if it happens a few months after the retirement of the Shuttle? Are we really willing to abandon our $100B space station to save $2B annually? Does that constitute cutting you nose off to spite your face?

Mike Griffin once stated that if NASA had learned anything in the gap that existed between the retirement of the Saturn V and the beginning of Shuttle operations, it was that you don’t give up an existing launcher before the replacement is ready. Yet, that is what our nation will do shortly because NASA does not have the support it needs financially to pay for both continuing the Space Shuttle program and re-starting Constellation.

It is the hope of those backing the President’s human space alternatives that by going commercial, the human space flight program could get away from the emaciated state of its funding. But since NASA is, and very likely will remain for decades to come, the majority source of funding for commercial human space access, the problem of insufficient funds remains. If people are wondering whether GM’s IPO will attract sufficient investors, then the ability of SpaceX and other commercial crew launchers to attract investors numerous enough to liberate them from the clutches of the whims of Congressional funding is very much in doubt. At least GM has customers beyond the Federal government and assets to stand as collateral; the commercial launchers have only Congress and NASA.

For nothing more than to keep our human space flight running apace, our nation’s leaders’ inability to allocate for NASA even just an additional 1% of what was given to save so many companies from fates of their own making to prevent their death at the hands of the free-market is very sad indeed. This lament is, however, similar to so many previously made over so long a period by people so numerous that it could sound like a broken record.

And that is even more disappointing.

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