NASA's shuttle plan too ambitious

Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 10:32 p.m.

CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA's goal of five space shuttle missions this year may be too ambitious, the new director of Kennedy Space Center said Wednesday.

Former shuttle program manager Bill Parsons, who last week took over as head of the space center, said the logistical hurdles may be too high to make the schedule of shuttle launches set for March, June, September, October and December.

The problem is NASA's ability to get each of the three shuttles in shape to fly again so soon after each returns home from space.

Five missions this year would be the most ambitious schedule since 2002, which also had five missions. All the shuttle flights this year are geared toward finishing construction of the International Space Station, which is to be completed by 2010 when the shuttle program ends.

"I know that we have three (flights) that we believe we can really make right now," said Parsons. "The other two are going to be a little tougher at the end of the year. One of them may slip over into the next year, but that's really no big deal."

But the space agency and employees at Kennedy are working at an "operational" pace and ready to repeat the successes of 2006 which had three triumphant shuttle missions, Parsons said.

"We've got that momentum going," he said.

Since the Columbia disaster in early 2003, there have been just four shuttle missions — three of them last year.

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