Shuttle Designer Faget: Time To Retire The Orbiter

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Another call to retire the space shuttle fleet has been heard, this time from Max Faget, a former NASA engineer who helped to design the spacecraft, the LA Times reported on Monday. "We ought to just stop going into space until we get a good vehicle," Faget told the Times. "If we aren't willing to spend the money to do that, then we should be ashamed of ourselves." NASA officials told the Times the shuttle has been upgraded and modernized in the 30 years since Faget worked on the original design. However, NASA engineers said Faget is "a giant in the space community whose opinions are worth more than anybody else's," according to the Times. Others have been joining in this refrain, including Texas Congressman Joe Barton, who said earlier this month he won't support any further funding for the manned shuttle program. "We need to spend the money on building an advanced orbiter or space plane, of the best and safest technology," he said. NASA says it needs the shuttle to complete the International Space Station. For now, the Russian Soyuz capsule is providing the only access back and forth to the ISS. "It is like going down the highway and thumbing a ride," said Faget. "You can do it, but it isn't the best way to get around. It is really admitting defeat."

NOTE:Curious to learn more about Max Faget's role in aviation history? Check out this interview with PBS's NOVA, and a reprinted feature story from the late Omni magazine.