'08 NASA Missions Called Risky

Space agency pushing up against 2010 deadline

By Caroline Zimmerman,  Newser User

Posted Jan 6, 2008 11:32 AM CST

(Newser) – NASA is speeding up its space shuttle flight schedule to meet the 2010 deadline for the completion of the International Space Station. This year alone, the space agency will launch six missions—twice the number of the last two years—and some experts worry that the crunch is a recipe for a Columbia-like disaster. "Something has to give," one told the Washington Post.

Atlantis is already behind schedule due to electrical malfunctions. NASA implemented a litany of new safety procedures in the wake of the Columbia fiasco in 2003, but the 27-year-old shuttle fleet—set to retire in 2010—remain unpredictable, highly complex spacecraft. "Every time we launch a shuttle, we risk the future of the human space flight program," said one analyst.

Space shuttle Atlantis sits on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008, prior to a media teleconference in Houston to discuss the status of ongoing work to...   (Associated Press)
In this image from NASA Television on the International Space Station, Expedition 16 commander Peggy Whitson is seen during a space walk, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/NASA TV)   (Associated Press)
A NASA worker waits to get onto Pad 39A to continue work on space shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Thursday Dec. 6, 2007. NASA managers canceled the launch today after detecting two...   (Associated Press)
In this photo released by NASA, Space Shuttle Atlantis sits on launch pad 39a after the rotating service structure was retracted at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, June 7,...   (Associated Press)
Space shuttle Atlantis sits on Pad 39A as sunset after the launch was scrubbed due to faulty liquid hydrogen sensors at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2007. If NASA...   (Associated Press)
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