Re "Abort this mission," editorial, June 29
I disagree with your editorial urging NASA to ground the space shuttle. Such a proposal shows an ignorance of the benefits of manned space travel. Although robots have their uses, they lack the flexibility of human spaceflight: the ability to explore on a hunch, to perform any needed in-flight repairs and to engage in the time-honored tradition of "going where no man has gone before."
Your editorial sends the wrong message to the astronaut corps, the families of those astronauts who have died in the performance of their missions and the young people who want to become astronauts.
\f7 There is simply no good reason to waste a perfectly good piece of equipment. The problem is not getting the thing into orbit but getting it down. NASA ought to launch the remaining shuttles, reconfigured as space station modules, up to the International Space Station and leave them there. They could probably be launched as unmanned vehicles that would then dock with the space station and become permanent parts of it. They could be used to raise it into higher orbit, if necessary, and they could be detached as required to retrieve and/or repair satellites without endangering anyone. Crews would travel up on Soyuz craft until a newer, safer crew module is flown, and the world would have a better, cheaper space station. Perhaps this scenario is a bit simplistic, but from this viewer's perch, it seems just a matter of will.