credit NASA sources / caption: Endeavour will now likely be retired in 2010 not 2013
In its 2008 annual report NASA's aerospace safety advisory panel (ASAP) has come down against extending the life of Space Shuttle beyond December 2010
From a safety standpoint, the ASAP strongly endorses the NASA position on
not extending Shuttle operations beyond successful execution of the December 2008 manifest
the report goes on to say
Continuing to fly the Shuttle not only would increase the risk to crews, but also
could jeopardize the future US exploration programme by squeezing available resources (and, in the worst case, support) for the Constellation programme
but it gets worse...
what is worse is that the panel's report goes on to say that more money for Ares will not help things
The ASAP is not convinced that the Ares I [crew launch vehicle] and Orion [crew exploration vehicle] initial operating capability (IOC) date can be improved appreciably by additional resources.
and then if that is not bad enough, Commercial Orbital Transportation Services is not expected to help much either
3. Private Sector. The ASAP concludes that the private sector cannot bridge the gap.
• There is no evidence that Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) vehicles will be completed in time to minimize the gap.
• The capability of COTS vehicles to safely dock with the [International Space Station] still must be demonstrated
So NASA is, according to ASAP, going to be left without any cargo or crew capability for at least five-years and it is assuming that Constellation, in its current form, will survive the blue ribbon panel review of NASA's "core mission" the agency is expecting to come with the appointment of a new administrator