The Endeavour space shuttle landing has been delayed, with a landing in Florida cancelled for today due to bad weather. NASA managers are decided whether to divert to Edwards Air Force Base in California or try again in Florida tomorrow.
The space shuttle Endeavour and its crew delivered to the International Space Station a variety of cargo, including some new sleeping quarters and a device that recycles urine and other waste water into drinkable water. The water recycling unit will be tested extensively during the next several months before the space station crew begins to drink its product on a regular basis.
The mission of the space shuttle Endeavour ends amid uncertainty about the future direction of the American space program due to the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency. The Obama transition team has made some inquiries at NASA that has raised concerns about Obama’s intentions concerning the space exploration initiative that is planned to send human explorers back to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond starting late the next decade.
The Obama transition team is inquiring about cost savings that would occur if the exploration initiative is cancelled. Also being asked of NASA is cost savings that would occur should the Orion space craft, designed to replace the space shuttle, be “resized” to fit on existing commercial launchers. This second option is seen as crippling the capacity of the Orion to carry out a lunar exploration program.
Also under consideration is accelerating the Orion/Ares 1 project by two years, accelerating the Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems (COTS) program to develop a commercial means of crew and cargo transport to the International Space Station, and cancelling Ares 1 but continuing Orion and the heavy lift Ares V.
The Obama transition team is also interested in reviving some Earth observation projects, including Triana, a pet project of former Vice President Al Gore, an asteroid detection program, and demonstration of space based solar power. Most observers do not suggest reading too much into these inquiries, though it is noted that only the exploration program is contemplated for cancellation of downsizing.
During the general campaign, Barack Obama had promised to vigorously support NASA and its programs, pledging a two billion dollar infusion of cash. During the primary, though, Barack Obama promised to slash NASA funding for the Orion/Ares and delay it five years in order to fund an educational initiative.
Sources: NASA cancels shuttle landing in Florida, Robert Block, Orlando Sentinel, November 30th, 2008
Obama Team Seeks Data on Possible Changes to Ares, Orion, Brian Berger, Space News, November 29th, 2008