The Future of Space Flight

Hi there everyone. Just want to thank you all again for an amazing response to our question of the day. Hundreds of you responded thoughtfully to our question about the space shuttle program, including Dick from Tucson who knows a lot about the shuttle. Dick wrote:

“I worked on the Space Shuttle Orbiter System from its inception until the work was transferred to KSC. The problems with the ‘foam debris’ from the External Tank has existed since the first flight. Only after the tragic result of the Columbia, did NASA (search) take action to really try to fix it seriously. Obviously they have a lot more work to do to safely return to flight. Dings and scratches on the tiles have always been happened in flight and would, most likely, not threaten the mission. A severely damaged or missing tile in a critical area would be an issue.

Gap fillers are just that, a filler between the tiles. I am surprised that NASA chose to remove the loose fillers and not try to stuff them back in to keep the heat from getting closer to the skin of the Orbiter. The blanket problem is also not new. The Orbiter has returned safely with damaged blankets before.

It's good that NASA is finally inspecting the vehicle after reaching Orbit and exercising proper caution. The Orbiter is an extremely complex and safe vehicle! FIX THE SYSTEM and do it right!”

More than a few of you agree with Dick. Many of you wrote in favor of fixing the space shuttle. John of Lexington, Kentucky put it this way:

“The space program has been the catalyst for advances in science, technology and thousands of discoveries. I believe it would be a grave mistake to give up on the space program and the shuttle program until something else is developed to replace it.”

Richard of Mineral Wells, Texas believes its time for one more patch job on the aging shuttle fleet:

“I do not think the shuttle should be scrapped. NASA has done a very good job and I don't think that anyone planned mistakes and mishaps on purpose. So fix it up and send it up! I saw it pass by this morning at 6:15 along with the space station and both were beautiful.”

Mark of St. Louis, Missouri takes a longer, historical view of the shuttle's problems:

“We have to keep the shuttle flying until the International Space Station is built. Human spaceflight has cost us fewer lives than the Empire State Building (search), Golden Gate Bridge or Hoover Dam. Were those worth the cost?”

But the vast majority of our viewers think it's time for NASA to cut its losses and invest in the next generation of spacecraft. Here's Richard from Anchorage, Alaska:

“I support NASA 100 percent, but the space shuttle needs to be scrapped. It's too expensive and fragile to use anymore.”

Twelve-year-old Lindsey of Johnsonville, South Carolina agrees:

“I think that you should scrap it, because NASA could move on with its space travel!! Don’t try to fix it, because it would take a long time, and in that time we could be working on another mission to space!”

Rich of Naples, Florida:

“That old ‘...throwing good money after bad...’ fits perfectly here. We should dump what we have in favor of developing the next generation of space vehicles.

Kevin of Viera, Florida:

“The space shuttle is like a computer - you can only upgrade it so many times before it becomes obsolete. The space shuttle has reached its upgrade limit. It's time for the next generation shuttle.”

Thanks again everyone, I think I'll bundle up some of your responses and mail them to the folks at NASA. The folks there are truly and dedicated and talented group of public servants and I'm sure they would like to know what the public thinks about their program. It is, after all, your tax dollars that fund the space program.

Now, just a word before I go about the passing of broadcasting legend Peter Jennings (search). I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Jennings, but like many broadcaster of my generation, I very much admired him. He was perhaps one of the best communicators I have ever seen and I have never seen anyone who was a better at the adlib. He was one of the greats and the news business has lost a giant.

Peter Jennings had only a high school education, I am told. That was an inspiration to me, as I did not earn a college degree until I reached my 40's. I always said, "If Peter Jennings could make it with only a high school education, so could I."

Our deepest condolences go out to the Jennings family — and all our friends over at ABC News (search).


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Brian Wilson is a congressional correspondent for FOX News and anchor of the Sunday edition of "Weekend Live."