(AP) - NASA's goal of five space shuttle missions this year may be too ambitious, the new director of Kennedy Space Center said.
Former shuttle program manager Bill Parsons, who last week took over as head of the space center, said the logistical hurdles may be too high to make the schedule of shuttle launches set for March, June, September, October and December, reports Trend.
New Kennedy Space Center Director William Parsons holds an informal press conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007. Parsons is the ninth director of NASA's KSC where he manages a team of approximately 2,100 civil service employees and 15,000 contract employees. (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove) (Peter Cosgrove - AP)
Liberty Middle School teacher Karyn Niles discusses superlatives with eighth-graders Hae Jin Kye, left, Sharon Shokir, Felobateer Hana and William Baek. She thinks many immigrants would struggle with grade-level tests. (Dayna Smith For The Washington Post)
The problem is NASA's ability to get each of the three shuttles in shape to fly again so soon after each returns home from space.
Five missions this year would be the most ambitious schedule since 2002, which also had five missions. All the shuttle flights this year are geared toward finishing construction of the international space station, which is to be completed by 2010 when the shuttle program ends.
"I know that we have three (flights) that we believe we can really make right now," said Parsons. "The other two are going to be a little tougher at the end of the year. One of them may slip over into the next year, but that's really no big deal."
But the space agency and employees at Kennedy are working at an "operational" pace and ready to repeat the successes of 2006 which had three triumphant shuttle missions, said Parsons.
"We've got that momentum going," he said.
Since the Columbia disaster in early 2003, there have been just four shuttle missions _ three of them last year.