NASA Memo: Griffin Point Paper on USA Today Article, 9/28/05

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2005

From: Laver, Susan Theresa.Marie (HQ-NC010)
Sent: Thursday, September 29, 2005 11:36 AM
Subject: Griffin Point Paper on USA Today Article, 9/28/05


Good morning.

Attached is a point paper on Administrator Griffin's comments in the USA Today article published yesterday. I apologize for not being able to get it to you earlier.


Susan Laver
Special Assistant
Office of Legislative Affairs
300 E Street SW
Washington, DC 20546

OSO PAO Point Paper Sept. 28, 2005


Background: Administrator Griffin spoke with USA Today editorial board members and reporters on September 27. He discussed a wide range of issues, including how he believes the space shuttle and international space station should have been developed and run differently. USA Today said Griffin called the shuttle and station "mistakes."

The country has a sound and fiscally responsible plan to move forward, in a deliberate fashion, to explore space. This is the appropriate path forward for NASA and the country. That plan includes utilizing the space shuttle to meet our international commitments and assemble the space station, then retiring the shuttle, after decades of service, in 2010. It is time to retire the shuttle and move to a system that will allow expanded exploration of the universe. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board noted that the shuttle system was not designed to explore beyond low earth orbit. The ability to return to the moon, and move on to Mars, requires a new system and deliberate plan to transition to that new system. If America is going to explore, and we are, we must accomplish our goals with a system other than the space shuttle.


Space Shuttle

  • The space shuttle does some things very well, like heavy lift, but it is a very complex machine and has its limitations. That's a major reason why the shuttle will be retired in five years after completing assembly of the space station and we will replace it with a new, safer generation of spacecraft that will meet our future exploration goals and needs. The space shuttle simply is not designed to accomplish the long-term goals of the Vision for Space Exploration.
    • However, we are using key components from the space shuttle system for our future exploration vehicles, the space shuttle main engines and solid rocket boosters.
    • The Shuttle was designed as a multipurpose vehicle, which led to its complexity. NASA's new architecture separates crew and cargo vehicles. This approach was also recommended by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
  • Despite its limitations, Griffin has said it would be unwise to permanently ground shuttles now because of cost and risk You need an orderly and deliberate phase out and retirement and that will take five years.
    • If we shut down now and allow the work force and skills to atrophy (like what happened between Apollo and the first shuttle flight 1975-81), you add a lot of risk into launching missions. NASA needs to avoid a large time gap between flying space shuttle missions and flying new vehicles.
    • Shutting down the shuttle now won't save money. In fact, it will cost more than an orderly transition to the new vehicles.
      • Consequences of shut down the shuttle program include:
        • It will cost about $10 billion to pay for our international partner obligations
        • It will cost money to let go the shuttle workforce. Workers whose skills and institutional knowledge would be lost. We can't afford to lose those workers. The cost of rehiring and retraining them would be more than maintaining the current workforce.
        • It will cost money in early termination fees for our current shuttle contracts
International Space Station
  • Griffin has said he believes it was a mistake to change the planned orbit of the space station from an inclination of 28.5 to 51.6 degrees because it limits flexibility in performing certain exploration missions.
  • Griffin said changing the inclination to 51.6 means the station could do research, but not be a real stepping stone for exploration.
    • 28.5 degrees inclination, which is the latitude of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, would allow us to carry heavier payloads to orbit.
    • Also, the 28.5 inclination is closer to the planetary plane inclination (the orbital plane, which is called the ecliptic, where most of the planets revolve around the Sun) and therefore a station located at 28.5 could have been used as an easier launching point for planetary missions than 51.6.


International Space Station Expedition 12

  • NASA and Russia confirmed at the Flight Readiness Review meeting for the next crew for the international space station on Sept. 19 that NASA Astronaut and Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur will have a ride back to Earth next April on the same Soyuz that will bring him to the station this October.

PAO: Allard Beutel, 202/358-4769

Based on comments made to the USA Today.
David Mould, Dean Acosta, HQ: 9/28/05
Bill Hill, HQ: 9/28/05
Lynn Cline, HQ: 9/28/05
Joe Davis, HQ: 9/28/05

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