Space Shuttle Deficiencies Propel Budget Into Orbit

Terry Ichinose, Editorial Director
Terry Ichinose, Editorial Director

Columbia, the pride of NASA and the nation, completed its second mission last Saturday. Although this was the first time a space vehi­cle has been used twice, the space shuttle may prove to be a lemon in the long run.

In its first mission last April, the shuttle had several problems, in­cluding the loss of some of its heat protective tiles. These tiles prevent the ship from burning up during its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Also, an on-board computer would not communicate with the other four computers.

These problems were solved for the time being, and the Columbia’s inaugural flight became history. A second flight, longer than the first, was scheduled for early November.

The tiles were checked, the com­puters worked, and everything seemed “A-ok.”

But 31 seconds before the Colum­bia was scheduled to take off on its second mission, a computer stopped the flight. The oil filters in two of the three auxiliary power units (APU) were clogged, because the Colum­bia did not have its oil changed after its first flight.

Although it was later discovered that the contaminated oil would not have harmed the APU’s, NASA re­placed the oil filters and flushed out the system, anyway.

The shuttle was fixed again for the time being, and it was launched the following Thursday. However, the scheduled 124 hour mission was cut to only 54 hours after the discovery of a faulty fuel cell.

NASA had planned an estimated 100 missions for the Columbia and its three sister  shuttles. Looking at the past two missions of the Colum­bia, one is led to believe that NASA has also planned to use the hit-and-miss method of testing flight opera­tions.

By the time NASA gets it right, the space shuttle may become obso­lete. A newer model would eventual­ly be designed which would elim­inate the problems’ NASA will have spent years solving.

Although. the shuttle is only in the testing phase, more time must be spent analyzing and eliminating the problems of the spacecraft  before its actual flight.

The idea of a reusable space shut­tle was a good one. But the basic premise of a reusable shuttle was the ability to return from orbit without needing major overhauls.

Major overhauls and the shuttle’s subsequent delays only end up costing more money than it should. Each flight costs millions of dollars alone.

And with the present economic situation, one may wonder why the space shuttle is given such priority. Maybe David Stockman was right. How can Reagan’s tax cut proposal possibly work when federal programs such as NASA are allowed to spend millions of dollars figuring out that the shuttle needs an oil change after each flight?

Terry Ichinose, Editorial Director
Terry Ichinose
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