STS To The ISS For The Penultimate Time

Launch of Space Shuttle Columbia

I’ve been hearing about the Space Shuttle program being phased out and this upcoming  flight of the Endeavour is the second to last one.  The NASA Space Shuttle Program will be the things of museums after that.  The last shuttle flight in February was to the International Space Station, and as I was looking at pictures of the crew of the ISS, I started to wonder how they were going to get home when the shuttles stopped flying.  I found out.  For just under $56 million an astronaut, they can book a ride on the Soyuz.  And the price is going up in 2014 to $63 million for that one-way ticket.  Now that’s what I call a pricey ticket.  WTF

 The official name of the Space Shuttle Program is “Space Transportation System”, which is why the shuttles are numbered “STS”-134, the current and second to last mission of the shuttle.  Most have a crew of six.  The cost to launch a shuttle, if you factor in the total costs of the program over almost 30 years, is $1.6 billion, but that’s round trip.  So that works out to a current ticket price of $267 million.  So the Russian contract sounds like a steal, at $112 million round trip.

Russian Soyuz

However, the Soyuz Program is the same one that was around in the 1960s.  Designed in 1967, it’s the oldest still launching.  I’m wondering how safe and comfortable the accommodations could be?  Plus the Soyuz can only carry three cosmonauts, astronauts, spationauts (French), taikonauts (Chinese) or other terrestrial beings.  They keep one docked up there at all times on the ISS, for emergencies, but we still have that over booking issue.  And if you just factor in the actual cost to launch the shuttle per mission, that cost appears to be around $60 million.  If we can pick up four, after we drop off four, even at the Russian’s cost of $112 million a round trip ticket, we can make some pretty serious buck here.

NASA wants the satellite business, launch, repair and retrieval, and low earth orbit transfers of astronauts and supplies to the ISS,  to go into private sector hands.  If the government hadn’t prevented that early on, I think it would probably already be happening.
I was an early space fanatic.  I watched every launch of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo that were televised.  Sometimes that meant getting up at 2:00 am and then sitting for hours when there was a launch hold.  But we stayed because these were monumental events, and we did have our own Jules Verne by way of Jules Bergman (ABC Science Editor) explaining everything to us with models and demonstrations. 

Buzz Salutes the US Flag

Most of us, old enough to remember, know where we were when Buzz Aldrin uttered those infamous words, “Magnificent Desolation.”  He was the second man to step foot on the moon’s surface.  But like most everyone else, the rocket launches and shuttle missions became almost like watching a jumbo jet take off from the airport.  We simply lost interest.  Now the manned program in the U.S. is on hold.  We’re looking to spend the billions of dollars budgeted to NASA on trips to Mars and Venus.  I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.  Maybe we should enjoy this penultimate mission of the Shuttle Program.


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One response to “STS To The ISS For The Penultimate Time

  1. Pingback: WTF…What The Fluffy

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