It seems like a good idea; after all, not many vessels are capable of sustaining life in space, so why not recycle what we've got? Unfortunately, the current fleet just isn't cut out for long-term habitation. When NASA retires the three remaining space shuttles next year, the craft will be sent to museums.
The main problem is power. Each shuttle has three fuel cells that mix liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, and that reaction generates all the crew's electricity (as well as its clean drinking water). But the shuttle stocks only enough oxygen and hydrogen to keep the fuel cells running for 14 days. After that, the shuttle would go completely dark. It wouldn't be able to maneuver or send radio transmissions, and lifesupport systems would shut down. "You couldn't even cook breakfast," says Michael Curie, a spokesperson for NASA space operations. "You wouldn't be able to return to Earth. Basically, the shuttle would be space junk."
You could restock the fuel tanks, of course, but the shuttles themselves have served as NASA's biggest orbital delivery trucks, and no appropriate replacement is in the works. The International Space Station gets around the energy issue by using its giant solar panels to charge its batteries. Outfitting the shuttles with a similar system would take quite a bit of engineering. "At that point," Curie says, "it would make more sense to start from scratch."
But what really makes a shuttle station a bad idea is the lack of amenities. The shuttles don't have room for all the exercise equipment that astronauts need to stave off rapid bone and muscle loss. They don't have individual bedroom compartments like the ISS does; to get some shuteye, astronauts instead zip themselves in sleeping bags and Velcro themselves to a wall. They don't even have a garbage chute. "They'd have to figure out some way to bundle up waste—human waste included—and toss it out a hatch," Curie says. "And because there isn't a launcher to shoot the waste into the atmosphere to burn up, it would just float and collect around the outside of the station."
Irrespective of the engineering and technical challenges, this is still a good idea for this reason; as our presence in space expands, we realize we'll need to develop space based repair and manufacturing systems. Using the space shuttles as test subjects for space based manufacturing, modification and repair would provide invaluable experience for Americans, and could also provide America with either another space station, or a new transportation system in space.
Think that would just cause problems. If you read the story a few after this one, it says that we have dumping problems in space basically.
well not dumping really, but yeah...just read the story im talking about.
Finally recycle up there as an emergency return vehicle, or counterweight for the space tether. Leave it up there. Space is Space either as a module to the space station, or weight that will be used by tether technologies latter.
Developing a space based manufacturing, modification and repair platform would help reduce the problem of space junk, because less satellites would fail and become space junk.
How about they send all three shuttles up then weld them together, and put that new solar paint on em?
Correct me if I'm wrong, which I very well may be, but aren't we having issues with too MUCH space junk up there? There was a story, as lokimotion pointed out, that we had to actually make the ISS dodge some debris from another satellite or something?
It's like target practice with reversed roles; putting targets for random objects to smash into.
We have to learn how to deal with space junk, and the best way to do that is to learn how to build, maintain and modify existing spacecraft (ie; satellites). In other words, we need a method to retrieve dead satellites and either repair it, or scrap it, because after all, just what is space junk?
It's satellites and expendables, such as booster sections.
Using just a single space shuttle for experimentation is not going to add so much to the junk in orbit that it would make this infeasible, and in the process that shuttle could become a craft used to clean up the junk that remains.
Putting the shuttles in museums isn't wasting them. It's using them to inspire the next generation of astronauts.
Permanently attach two shuttles to the iss.Use the large cargo area for labs or storage accommodation.No need for heat tiles, replace them with solar cells. This will increase work and leisure space for the astronauts.
Long story short. Do it or dont.
We've been throwing away massive space habitats for decades. If we'd been leaving the Shuttle External Tanks up there to be fitted with habitats at later dates we could have viable orbital settlements by now.
And they're only considering leaving the Shuttles up there? Please.
The soyuz can only take three people down at once. So put a shuttle on the space station and use it only to take everyone down in one go should an evacuation be necessary. The astronauts could use the stations galley restrooms and exercise equipment. Not only would it function as a life boat but the extra room could be allowed to increase the crew on the iss to ten and only need to leave one soyuz parked instead of the current two. The equipment on the shuttle could provide redundancies for communications, radar, airlocks and an added robot arm. The only think I think would be better than parking a shuttle up there would be to park two or three of them.
Sorry, Guys, but they are not worth the cost of boosting them back up there ... they are old and VERY heavy.
The ISS should provide plenty of lab-space and long-duration medical data for any priority projects, in the near future.
IF we really need more living room, up there, expedient inflatables will do, in the interim.
I think ONE of them should be sold as an artificial reef or a dive-relic for one of the world's underwater hotels.
See: "Atlantis" resort hotel.
... or ...
One could also be incorpoated into some meuseum as an architectural feature ... i.e., If oriented vertically, for instance, it could serve as the shell of a stair-well or diagonally, as the base of two escalators where people would ride over the base of the wing(s), along the length of the fusalage.
... or ...
An inflatable "moon-walk" (air mattress) could be placed in the open cargo bay and young kids (children's exhibit) could climb the stairs and also sit in the seats.
.. or .. Park one next to that diner, in Roswell, and turn it into a pub.
.. or .. Find some way to park one on the flight deck of a recently mothballed Enterprise class CVN Aircraft carrier/meuseum.
(of the same name?) Park the SSTS Enterprise on the CVN Enterprise, for instance.
The USS Enterprise(CVN65) HAS NOT been mothballed, but may be decommissioned in 2013.
The best use for the retired space shuttles is a use that furthers our space efforts.
How about permantly dock the shuttle to the space station.