Last Sunday's New York Times printed a rebuttal by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin to the New York Times Editorial "Mismanaging the Shuttle Fixes" published on August 19th.
The Aug 19th editorial suggested that all future shuttle flights be canceled, and that the U.S. Manned Space Program should be put on hold until NASA's next generation of Crew Transfer and Heavy Lift Spacecraft are ready to take over the tasks of putting our astronauts in orbit, deploying satellites, and lifting the remaining sections of the ISS into orbit for the completion of the space station.
Although recognized as an inherently flawed design by almost everyone involved in the space program, the Shuttle is the only spacecraft we have that can lift the completed segments of the International Space Station into orbit. Critical science components that were designed to fit inside the cargo bay of the NASA Shuttle.
Even with an accelerated program to bring a next generation heavy lift vehicle on line, we are still five years away from being able to deploy this new launch vehicle. In the meantime, our contract with the Russian Space Agency to deliver NASA personel to the ISS runs out later this year, and Congress and the Senate have made it clear that they do not want to be dependent on Russia for access to near-Earth space. Still, the New York Times expressed a feeling shared by many Americans.
The Times Editorial opened with:
"The troubled space shuttle program is in even more trouble than we realized. Seven members of an official review panel have just issued a scathing indictment of the process by which NASA determined that it was safe to start flying the shuttles again - only to discover that it really wasn't.
Meanwhile, NASA itself, still reeling from unexpected foam shedding on the first test flight since the Columbia disaster, has been forced to postpone the next shuttle flight until March or later while it struggles to fix the problem.