WASHINGTON — The NASA Advisory Council has expressed "great concern" about the ability of the space agency to maintain the nation's leadership in space, it was revealed Tuesday.
Advisory Council Chairman Daniel Fink told NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher in a letter released Tuesday that it appears that the steps the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has taken to recover from the Challenger disaster "are neither adequate nor sufficiently rapid."
Fink, an aerospace consultant, said the independent 25-member council met earlier this month to review the state of the space program in the wake of the Jan. 28 shuttle explosion.
"At the conclusion of the meeting, we were left with great concern as to whether NASA can any longer meet the mandate for national pre-eminence established by the National Aeronautics and Space Act," he said in the letter, which was dated last Thursday.
Fink said that President Reagan's decision to replace Challenger had been "inordinately delayed" and that the nation has no long-range goals to serve as the framework for specific projects and missions.
The nation "has allowed its space technology base to erode, leaving it with little technological capability to move out in new directions should the need arise," Fink said.
He also told Fletcher that there is "no rational plan" to make unmanned rockets available for planetary missions and to provide backups to the shuttle fleet in the future.
"The prospects for purchasing the ELV (expendable launch vehicle) service from the commercial sector have not been realistically assessed, and we found no plans for budgeting for ELV requirements, whatever the source," he said.
"We believe that, unless the actions indicated are taken very soon, the U.S. civil space program will continue to erode, to the nation's great detriment."