Discovery Valve Glitch Highlights NASA's Need For Better Space Shuttle Technology

The space shuttle Discovery's planned launch early Wednesday was canceled for the second straight day after a liquid hydrodgen valve failed to close properly. The Discovery mission was canceled on Tuesday due to bad weather.

NASA engineers are now testing the hydrodgen valve and the sensor system that measures its readings. Sensors indeed.The canceled Discovery mission is a wake up call for NASA and all Americans.

We may not want to hear it, but NASA's computer systems have just not kept pace with rapid technological changes. NASA and the Space Shuttle are an all or nothing proposition. You can't go it on the cheap. We are putting astronaut's lives at risk by not committing more money for intelligent sensors and systems that alert NASA earlier to any and all possible malfunctions.

The issue that NASA is grappling with is no different than that faced by countless businesses that MUST invest in new technology to compete in the internet era. We have all seen the fallout when you fail to make those investments from the TJ Maxx stores breach that has cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars and scarred its credibility and reputation forever to the countless businesses that have gone out of business because they did not have proper computer disaster recovery plans in place. With American businesses we are talking about business failures. With NASA we are dealing with the lives of astronauts.

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It is no secret that the Obama administration plans to follow through on former President George W. Bush's plan to retire the Space Shuttle by 2010. The Obama budget for fiscal year 2010 provides NASA with a five percent budget increase to $18.68 billion. But it simply is not enough.

In his NASA FY 2010 budget summary, Acting Adminstrator Christopher Scolese announced the launch of an independent review of NASA's human flight space activities." The Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans will examine our development programs and suggest possible alternatives," wrote Scolese. "The goal is to provide options that will ensure the nation's human space flight program remains safe, innovative and affordable in the years following the space shuttle's retirement."

If we truly want to make sure that the Discovery remains safe in the years ahead, we need to invest in better technology that will proactively avoid hydrogen valve snafus and other issues. It's a fact of life for NASA, the Space Shuttle Discovery, American business and all Americans.