Jeffery F. Bell thinks maybe it is. He argues that post-CAIB shuttle flights might not be any safer, overall, than before. He throws out a 40% chance of another dead crew and destroyed shuttle before the end of the ISS flights in 2010. He thinks maybe the plan all along has been to ground the shuttle forever.
Is this the real Bush Space Plan? Was this intended right from the start?
In this model, the current Plan Bush is just a politically sellable intermediate plan to get the contractors and politicians all mentally accustomed to a Shuttle-free environment a few years down the road. Thus the shock of Shuttle termination will be lessened, when it is finally announced sometime after the November elections. Lockheed and Boeing will get big contracts for CEV and Super-EELV, about the same size as their current Shuttle and Station contracts. No NASA centers need close. Everybody is happy.
Could this particular “conspiracy” theory actually be true?
I don’t know if I’m buying it, but I’m not so sure I would oppose the shuttle program’s immediate demise. Think of the budget money freed up to reinvent the Apollo program, which is more or less what we need to do at this point.
And I wouldn’t, even for one moment, believe that the Bush people are above sneaking their plan in.
And as for the Bush Administration, this is exactly the kind of indirect approach they have adopted for most of their major initiatives. They are very clever at taking advantage of the blind Bushophobia of the Administration’s opponents. They always start out by doing something very different from (sometimes exactly the opposite of) what they really want to do. Then when the first plan is denounced by the news media and the Democrats, they reverse course and do what should have been done in the first place.
Then the President’s opponents congratulate themselves on having “forced” Bush to abandon another misguided plan. This ploy works best if the original plan is really stupid and obviously failing (e.g. letting looters run wild in Baghdad), but this isn’t really necessary anymore, since Bush-bashing has become so reflexive that any program he suggests is automatically attacked.
I think there’s a lot of good that could come from an early end to the Shuttle/ISS debacle. A lot of loss, too, of course, but in the long run we might be better off.
And NASA should put the Hubble Space Telescope on eBay right now. Someone could buy it, science organizations and universities could rent time on it, and interested parties could try to fund a Soyuz-based servicing mission or two. Unloading the Hubble operations would save NASA another ton of dough, and they could get back to the cutting-edge stuff that no one else can manage.