What we seem to have here is a classic NASA fuckeroo.
Who knew that the President's call for a new Vision for Space Exploration would result in the end of so many scientific programs and projects? Those that watch NASA are watching slack-jawed at the wide spread down sizing (RIF), and the outright cancellation of almost every program that doesn't directly support the "Vision".
This appears to include America's interest in the International Space Station.
It may be prudent from a purely American point of view (our shuttle and crew at risk), but our European partners in the ISS have put a lot into this project. They have invested in the ISS, they have provided crew members for the flights, and they have been just as frustrated with the delays in the Shuttle program as any space-happy Yank.
And they're very concerned by the reduction in flights of the Space Shuttle. It's not clear yet, but this reduction may include flights that were supposed to carry their work into orbit. Our partners are sitting on equipment that's been designed and built, and has been ready to launch since 2003. Including the Columbia Science Module, Europe's showcase contribution to the ISS, with a billion dollar price tag.
This then, from Business Monday:
Europe has begun evaluating its options in the event the U.S. space shuttle is retired too early to launch the Columbus science laboratory, Europe's billion-dollar contribution to the international space station, European Space Agency (ESA) Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said July 28.
ESA has ordered a team of engineers to evaluate scenarios in which the shuttle is capable of launching 20 times, 15 times and 10 times between now and its intended 2010 retirement date. The study, whose conclusions are expected in early September, includes a scenario in which the shuttle cannot launch the Columbus module.
"I will have an evaluation of all these scenarios, including a scenario in which there is no Columbus," Dordain said in an interview. "My biggest concern is to optimize the investments that our member governments have already made."