Op/Ed: Convert the Shuttle Mars Society

It is now apparent that the Shuttle Orbiter cannot be used much longer as a system for transporting crews to Earth orbit. The Columbia disaster has made it clear that the antiquated Orbiters are becoming increasingly unsafe. Moreover, even if the Orbiter could be flown safely, it is clear that using a launch vehicle with a takeoff thrust matching that of a Saturn V to transport half a dozen people to the Space Station makes about as much sense as using an aircraft carrier to tow water skiers. The Shuttle was designed as a self-launching space station. Absent a permanent space station on-orbit, such a vehicle had some justification. But with the establishment of the ISS, the rationale for using a flying Winnebago as a space taxi is no longer sustainable.