John Glenn: Keep the Shuttle Flying

Former astronaut and retired U.S. Senator John Glenn joins Neil Armstrong and a score of other legendary astronauts in voicing concern over the United States’ plan to end its space program.

MSNBC reports that Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, believes continuing the program is the best use of taxpayer money, rather than paying Russia for rides to the International Space Station (ISS).

“We’ll spend almost as much buying astronauts’ seats on Russia’s Soyuz as we would to keep the shuttles flying,” said Glenn. “The cost of continuing the shuttle is really very tiny compared to the $100 billion investment we’ve made in the station, and keeping shuttle flying, we’ll have the biggest spaceship ever to carry seven [astronauts] and tons of cargo.”

Glenn also cites possible safety issues, arguing if something ever goes wrong with Russia’s Soyuz, the only ship besides the shuttle capable of taking astronauts to the ISS, the station could be left unattended. Abandonment, says Glenn, could result in the ISS losing altitude, breaking apart, and massive debris falling to Earth.

“Why terminate a perfectly good system that has been made more safe and reliable through its many years of development?” he asks. “We’re putting ourselves in line for a single-point failure ending the whole manned space program, and I don’t think we should be putting ourselves into that position.”