future of human space flight is a fitting place for the ever-adaptable space shuttle.
Even though the shuttle may be associated with the unfortunate disasters in 1986
and 2003, it is nonetheless a reliable vehicle for the scope of manned space flight.
It is unrivaled in its ability to adapt to the task at hand; whether it is a space
walk or a routine maintenance mission, the shuttle can be modified for the job.
It will also likely play a role in the expanding horizon of manned space exploration.
NASA plans a possible return to the moon, and, as the rovers Spirit and Opportunity
are presently doing, the exploration of the planet Mars.
the recent loss of the Columbia and its crew has put NASA under some public
pressure. Some call for tighter regulations and a change in the NASA administration,
while others question the reliability of the space shuttle itself. The main concern
with the shuttle focuses on the fact that the simple loss of a few insulation
tiles can cause the craft to break apart and burst into flame upon re-entry. Critics
question whether the shuttle should be redesigned to add more safeguards and improve
its structure, or be scrapped completely for a new type of craft. This process
would take a long period of time, and most likely set the NASA program behind
in their schedule. Those in favor of the present shuttle design use this as their
rebuttal, and question whether it is worth the time and resources to come up with
a design that may not even meet the standards that the shuttle has set.