Antiques in spaaaaace! Retired space shuttles cannibalised for parts

NASA's financial issues mean museum pieces are being ripped apart for ISS spares

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NASA’s budget woes have forced it to consider sending museum pieces into space.

With funding cuts looming, NASA engineers are saving cash by cannibalising parts from retired shuttles in museum displays to use on the International Space Station (ISS).

The space shuttle programme was shut down in 2011, and the US’s four shuttle craft were shipped off to museums around the United States.

This week, four water storage tanks are being yanked from Endeavour - the most up-to-date of the shuttles. It made 25 flights to the ISS between 1992 and 2011 and is now on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

But it is not the first shuttle to be picked over for parts. Similar tanks were stripped from the Atlantis shuttle in May.

NASA spokesman Daniel Huot told New Scientist that the shuttles were designed for more missions than they actually flew, so the tanks were still in good working order. They store water for the shuttle crew during the flight, and will be used to replenish water supplies on the ISS.

Due to NASA’s budget problems, America is reliant on SpaceX and Russian launches to get stuff, like these water supply tanks, to the space station. Earlier this month, NASA extended the $490m contract with Russia's space agency until 2019.

President Obama has requested $1.2bn from the 2016 budget for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, but the Senate bill on the table is just $900m. Both are hundreds of millions short of NASA's request, so expect more antiques to be pressed into service. ®


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