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NASA Administrator: U.S. Didn't Plan to Replace Shuttle

Anissa Ford's picture

This summer, NASA's space shuttle program flies its last mission until new space vehicles are built. John Bolden, the Obama Administration's NASA Chief, told CNN that the NASA shuttle program should have ended a very long time ago so NASA could engineer new rockets.

In his interview, Bolden conceded the US would be dependent on Russia's intelligence in space flight and said that the Russians are good space partners. Bolden said the biggest shame with the Shuttle program is not the program's end, but that there has not been an updated replacement yet.

Bolden, who became an astronaut in 1980, emphasized the safety of astronauts several times in the CNN interview. NASA has three more scheduled shuttle space flights. The Discovery is ready for its last mission on Thursday.

The Endeavour will fly in April. Astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, will be on board the Endeavour in April. When Giffords was shot, Kelly had to make the decision whether or not to fly in the April mission. When Gifford showed tremendous improvement and progress, Kelly made the decision with his wife to participate in the mission.

Kelly said that Giffords will attend the April launch. Bolden said he hopes that Kelly is right as Gifford's appearance would give everyone, the nation and NASA, a great boost after the tragic mass shooting incident.

These last three space shuttle missions are the last flights into space by the United States. Columbia launched on on April 12, 1981, just a year after NASA Chief Bolden officially became an astronaut.

Bolden said that President Obama's Administration has ambitions for humans to land on Mars by the mid 2030s. Bolden was also asked about NASA's ability to build a new heavy-lift rocket that is capable of leaving lower Earth orbit. Bolden said that NASA has the money to build such a ship over time, but he is also hoping that two, at the very least, commercial space companies will emerge to transport astronauts to the international space station.

With the help of commercial companies, Bolden says NASA can focus its energies on building the rocket ship that will leave lower Earth orbit.

Staying with the shuttle program Bolden says, has delayed the building of new space ships. Bolden said that the space shuttle program should have ended a long time ago.

NASA wants to use the Atlantis orbiter Space Transportation System on the final flight. The STS program will cost about a half billion dollars. Each of the next three scheduled shuttle flights are marked as STS 133 (Discovery); STS 134 (Endeavour); and STS 135.

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