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NASA Faces Funding Deadline for Final Shuttle Launch

June 28, 2011 | WMFE - NASA has cleared Space Shuttle Atlantis to launch next Friday on the final mission of the shuttle program. A top-level review at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday turned up no problems with the spacecraft. The agency is under more pressure than usual to get the mission started on time.

NASA only has three days to get Space Shuttle Atlantis off the ground before it runs into conflicts with another planned rocket launch. That normally wouldn’t be a big problem, but since this is the last mission of the 30-year-old shuttle program, funding could start to dry up if the launch date slips too far.

NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier suggested there could be a point where staffing might become an issue.

“We gotta make sure that in our zeal to get this mission done, we don’t cross some safety line where we don’t have adequate support to go staff the mission,” he said. “We’ll do the right thing overall.”

Gerstenmaier says there’s plenty of money to support the Atlantis mission for at least “a couple of months.”

Atlantis is scheduled to fly a twelve-day mission to the International Space Station.  NASA managers are hoping to add an extra day to the flight plan to allow more time for astronauts to move cargo onto and off of the International Space Station.  After the shuttle program ends, there will be no spacecraft capable of carrying large loads of cargo to and from the orbiting outpost.


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