Over the weekend, Wayne Hale – the recently retired Space Shuttle Program Manager – delivered a magnificently open and transparent blog post titled “Killing Constellation” that covered a lot of ground on the topic of NASA’s human spaceflight program. There were some amazing insight and stores within his post. Among them are nuggets about how NASA almost chose never to fly the shuttle again after the Columbia loss.
After the Columbia loss, there was a furious space policy debate in Washington. The “Shawcross Option” was to never fly the shuttle again, deorbit the incomplete ISS, and turn NASA into a pure R&D organization with half its existing budget. That option was nearly chosen.
And lessons to be learned by those still working within the confines of government.
An early lesson for all of those involved in government budgeteering is to read the fine print, especially the assumptions.
And ultimately, how decisions made in the return to flight years ultimately doomed the Constellation program.
So yes, I had a role in the killing of Constellation; a long time before February 1, 2010.
It’s an amazing read on a number of levels. For me, it has provoked deep thought after deep thought evoking more questions than answers. Such as, could the current NASA workforce ever aim to be this transparent? Is NASA headed towards the “Shawcross Option” after all? Are the last Shuttle fights the last time I’ll see a U.S. space program send a human into space during my lifetime?