Like most United States government agencies, NASA is facing major budget cutbacks. That means the agency has to get creative in finding ways to continue developing America’s world leading space program.
One way of doing so includes raiding NASA museum pieces for salvageable parts. Specifically, NASA engineers have looked to spacecraft parts of the shuttle program that was shut down in 2011.
Once the space shuttles were retired, they were shipped to museums across the country for the viewing public. Handy for NASA is the fact that the shuttles were designed to fly in more missions than they actually did, so a lot of their parts are in good condition, particularly the interior parts.
In May, engineers removed water tanks from the Atlantis space shuttle for use as drinkable water storage onboard the International Space Station (“ISS”).
Similarly this week, four water storage tanks are being removed from the Endeavour - the youngest of the shuttles, which is now stored at the California Science Center. The tanks measure approximately 3 feet by 1 foot and weigh about 40 pounds when empty. Since they are located deep within the interior of the shuttles, museum goers will not even notice they are missing.
California Science Center president Jeff Rudolph recently stated in an interview with ZME Science that, “It wasn’t a part of the deal, but we’re always happy to work with NASA. The concept of taking something from an old shuttle and making it available for use in space is something that we think is great.”
Unfortunately, the tanks will not be launched into space in the near future as NASA’s budget concerns mean U.S. astronauts must rely on Russian space launches to transport the astronauts to the ISS. Earlier this summer, NASA extended its multimillion dollar contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency until 2019.
Hence, the recent frugal moves by NASA to look to its past fleets for parts.
NASA recently requested a budget proposal from the United States Legislature. President Obama proposed a $1.2 billion allotment for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program - a number far less than what NASA would like. The Senate countered with a $900 million budget and is waiting for approval.