NASA has announced that space shuttle Endeavour will finally blast off on its 25th and final mission at 12:56 GMT on 16 May. The launch to the International Space Station was aborted on 29 April due to a heater failure in the spacecraft's Auxiliary Power Unit, later traced to a blown circuit in a switchbox inside the engine …
They should leave it in space
Attach it to the ISS as the basis of the upcoming manned (peopled?) Mars mission. Bring the astronauts home on the scheduled ISS supply trips. Take up fuel, additional components, inflatable living spaces expendonauts(tm) etc and there you go.
Doesn't work that way
The Shuttle's components aren't designed for very long durations in space. Just to get you started, the tiles would get dinged by micrometeorites (and larger stuff) and various plastics and rubbers would degrade from atomic oxygen.
And what use would it be going to Mars? There's no runway for it to land even if it could be brought down to a reasonable speed after entry to the very thin Martian atmosphere.
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Good idea, but i don't think the ISS is structurally up to it .
I thought the final Shuttle mission would be to retire the Hubble telescope, collecting it from orbit and bringing it back down to the ground.
There are only 2 more flights planned so is this not happening now?
There were plans to bring back Hubble but these were canned on the grounds of expense and that the Shuttle could not abort to the ISS if there was a failure during the mission. Another plan was to attach a booster that would have shoved Hubble either into a safer higher orbit, or down into the atmosphere for a controlled re-entry. This also didn't go ahead.
Instead a better attachment point for future missions called the SCRS was placed on the telescope. The next mission to Hubble (which no one has a clue about) will be to deorbit the telescope. Currently, Hubble will be decommissioned sometime between, and you've got to give them credit for narrowing it down, 2013 and 2021 - the latter being when it will definitely re-enter the Earth's atmosphere.
Knackered old thing...
With broken this and blown that, it very much does seem like time to retire the old girl... And as for a replacement program, I think NASA should get in touch with the Top Gear 'scientists' and develop their Reliant Robin STS technology further...
Knackered before first launch
The shuttles were designed in the mid-late 1960s and built in the early 1970s with a configuration dictated by pentagon demands that knobbled it and made it so dangerous the military decided to not use it much.
For 2 decades it was a solution looking for a problem - a combination of Haulage truck to build a space station that almost never happened and what was originally supposed to be a small lightweight astronaut return vehicle leading on from the Dyna-soar project. Most of the missions were "makework" to justify the thing's existance, but ended up wearing the birds out before their designed mission could be completed (it would have been better to hanger them)
Ironically even before the turnaround cost blowouts caused by the aftermath of the Challenger debacle (much more inspection for what was already a creaky old design) expendable launchers were cheaper for most missions. Shuttle was supposed to be substantially CHEAPER than expendables but turned out to be "anything but".
The reason Buran never flew a second time wasn't due to costs, it was becuase the russians didn't want the bad publicity of having one break with people onboard.
Thankfully private schemes aren't beholden to senatorial pork (yeah right) and wouldn't do anything as stupid as building critical solid fuel booster rockets so far from base that they needed to be shipped in kitset form and bolted together before launch...
The shuttles - for all their gloriousness - were enormous white elephants. Now they're no longer holding things back perhaps there will be better progress in launcher technology.