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International Space Station: Canada to the Rescue? 301

Posted by chrisd
from the canada-going-to-bat-for-science dept.
Apostata writes "The following story from the Globe and Mail outlines a proposal of the head of the Canadian Space Agency to seek renewed funding for the recently stripped-down NASA budget for the ISS. He makes an interesting point that - contrary to the belief that the ISS is a NASA brainchild/braintrust - many countries have poured $billions$ into it's development and should thus have a say in whether there should be any cutbacks. Read all about it here."
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International Space Station: Canada to the Rescue?

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  • The ISS is all about polotics. If any [i]real[i] research is going on in space, it is carried out by individual countries.
  • very true, but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheM0cktor (536124)
    i'll probably get modded down to hell for saying this, but wouldn't the mind boggling amounts of money that get ploughed into the ISS be better spent on more, smaller, saner, more economical projects ones that do new/cool[tm] stuff? And what are the benefits (other than PR) of maintaining continuous presence in orbit anyway?

    • I sincerely hope you don't get modded down, because what you are saying is a very valid position that has been held by many, many scientists around the world but has been utterly ignored by the political backers of the project. The ISS is a great technology testbed and research platform, but should not be funded at the expense of (for example) research on climate change and its implications. But, that is exactly what is occurring. It was predicted years ago, it has come true.
      • by s20451 (410424) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:34PM (#2717725) Journal

        Let me suggest to you that useful but boring space research gets done because we also do exciting but expensive things. That is, it's hard to get the public interested in a fleet of Earth-orbiting atmospheric science satellites, but human spaceflight galvanizes the public interest enough that a few hundred million can sneak past for other, more scientifically interesting research.



        I also think that the money spent on the ISS is worth it if the only thing it proves is that a massive international space project requiring detailed co-operation from former military adversaries is even possible. (PS: I'm all for letting the Chinese get on board too). The future of manned spaceflight depends on pan-national co-operation.

        • "Let me suggest to you that useful but boring space research gets done because we also do exciting but expensive things. That is, it's hard to get the public interested in a fleet of Earth-orbiting atmospheric science satellites, but human spaceflight galvanizes the public interest enough that a few hundred million can sneak past for other, more scientifically interesting research."

          In other words the ISS is a really expensive advertising campaign?
        • Cooperation? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr@@@ticam...utexas...edu> on Monday December 17, 2001 @10:41PM (#2717959) Homepage
          The future of manned spaceflight depends on pan-national co-operation.

          Have you seen the results of international cooperation? Everybody teaming up to try and put up a Low Earth Orbit space station, and finally getting hardware in orbit after 2 decades of redesigns, tens of billions of dollars of cost growth, United States delays that threatened European schedules, Russian delays that threatened American schedules... and the result just isn't that impressive, even for a space station.

          What human spaceflight depends on, apparantly, is international competition. Russians orbiting the globe, "putting a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth before this decade is out", you know, that sort of thing?

          We don't need Chinese astronauts on ISS, we need China building it's own space station in half the time... because apparantly there's nothing that motivates the American space program so well as being laughed at.
          • We don't need Chinese astronauts on ISS, we need China building it's own space station in half the time... because apparantly there's nothing that motivates the American space program so well as being laughed at.


            In this administration? Bush would take his soccer ball and go home, while calling those laughing at the USA "terrorists".
    • Re:very true, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RollingThunder (88952) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:36PM (#2717730)
      I can think of two simple benefits off the top of my head.

      First, you can have experiments that are easily monitored, altered, and corrected. It's probably cheaper to have an astronaut do the work than to design (and pay for the lift of) the mechanics to do so.

      Second, by having experiments inside the permanent structure of the station, you don't need to reproduce the wheel every time you send up an experiment (shielding for radiation and dust, airtight containment, temperature control, etc etc). The station provides all that.

      A lot of this could be done with the shuttle - but only as long as it doesn't take too long. I think the max time on orbit for a shuttle is only a couple of weeks, but I'm probably way off. Using the station, you can run a three month long experiment or more... which is really handy if you're studying something like the effect of microgravity on successive generations bred and raised in it.

      (As an aside, how they get the mice to have sex in zero g, I'll never figure out. ;) )
      • "(As an aside, how they get the mice to have sex in zero g, I'll never figure out. ;) )"

        There was a female comedian in the 60's named Rusty Warren (baudy, burlesque style humor). One of her albums has "Rusty Warren in Orbit" and it covered a few of those areas. Unscientifically, unfortunately. She said she would "have to tie a brick to his fanny to keep him from falling off" if I remember correctly. Of course, we know the brick would be in free fall too, so it wouldn't help. But she had great delivery, so we could overlook those things.
      • by aallan (68633)

        I guess I'm going to get modded down for this, but don't get me wrong, I'd love to find a good justification for the manned space program. However, the current scientific program, and the ISS, isn't it...

        ...you can have experiments that are easily monitored, altered, and corrected. It's probably cheaper to have an astronaut do the work than to design (and pay for the lift of) the mechanics to do so.

        Unfortunately there are very few experiments that we've been able to think of that really require an astronaut, most could be done cheaper without the human interferance.

        ...by having experiments inside the permanent structure of the station, you don't need to reproduce the wheel every time you send up an experiment (shielding for radiation and dust, airtight containment, temperature control, etc etc). The station provides all that.

        But you do have to shield ever (delicate) experiment against the humans and the gunk that they produce. That costs.

        A lot of this could be done with the shuttle...

        The shuttle was, and is, a dead end, and alot of the community argued against it. We should have stuck with disposables until we figured out how to build something that really was SSTO. Unfortunately we still haven't managed it...

        Al.
        • The shuttle was, and is, a dead end, and alot of the community argued against it. We should have stuck with disposables until we figured out how to build something that really was SSTO. Unfortunately we still haven't managed it...

          sadly true. The shuttle could have been a prelude to something much better but thats never materialised. I think the problem deep down is that ever since the apollo program ended the adventurous spirit has gone out of space. Sure a lot of good science is still done but its not quiet, gently paced research that makes the world sit up and think.

          I'd dare to suggest the only thing that would rekindle a worldwide interest in people going into space would be something extravagant. Mars perhaps, or at least back to the moon.
          • Part of the problem was that the apollo program crippled the SSTO projects. All the best scientists that were working on jet aircraft became involved in rocketry. Look at the SR-71 - its very existence at the time would be like M-16's in world war one. Its a marvel of engineering. Getting one of those things into space seems almost like no big deal - and yet they lost all that when they decided they needed everyone to work one a big fscking missile. I'm not saying the Apollo project was a bad idea, it was the best PR space could get, and besides it was just *right* to do it. But still, something might have been lost in the process, something with more long-term gain. The shuttle isn't even cheaper - most disposable rocket launches are unmanned just for launching satellites, and they do that way cheaper then the shuttle.
  • many countries have poured $billions$ into it's development

    I think what you meant to say was that many countries have poured billions of Rubles, Drachmas, and Yen into the ISS project. Believe it or not, the world does not revolve around you Americans, even in the financial world. We still have our own currencies, so far.

    Here's to hoping the ISS makes it,
    EPD.
    • Re:Jingoism again? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dimwit (36756) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:24PM (#2717668)
      No, but Slashdot is an American site, and most of its readers are American. I'm European, but I don't expect Slashdot to put, every time it discusses anything international, every single possible variation on the phrase.

      I'm also a little upset with people bitching that the US has limited everyone's access to the ISS. The US has poured far more money into it than any other participant, AND has had to cover for things when other members (Russia, mainly) defaulted on debts. So don't act like it's just the Americans' fault.
      • Re:Jingoism again? (Score:1, Interesting)

        by ShadeEagle (153172)
        Keeping in mind... if Slashdot WERE to post EVERY form of currency invested into the ISS, the story would be about 3 times longer than it need be.

        Besides... The US Dollar IS the de facto standard on which all other currencies are compared to.

        Proud to be Canadian, but mindful of the rest of the world.
    • Sheesh, give it a break. It's obvious that he meant that they have spent what translates into billions of US dollars. If you were nitpicking, you could have at least pointed out the missplaced apostraphe. ;-)
    • by MindStalker (22827)
      Yea, exactly, and the exchange rate is shit. So total contributions are equal to what? $1.95?
    • Re:Jingoism again? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Apostata (390629)

      "I think what you meant to say was..."
      Actually, I meant to say what I did. You infer via paranoia that I'm implying that there's only one currency in the world and that it's all a plot to subjugate your philosophy...which has nothing to do with the subject of the article or outer-space in general.

      For the record, I'm Canadian. Get stuffed.
    • Oh right. Forgetting for a moment that this is an AMERICAN website and that the author of the article was likely implying billions after _conversion_, the article should have read:

      "many countries have poured billions of drachmas, kopeks, dong, won, yen, pesetas, rubles, rupees, lira, marks, pounds, franks, krones, shillings, pesos, punts, baht, yuan, taka and polished beads into it's development..."

      Give me a break.

      LEXX


    • What I interpreted that statement to say was that other countries have spent the equivalent of billions of U.S. dollars on these programs. Not that they have spent billions of Yen, etc, but rather trillions or whatnot of Yen, etc, when you do the conversions. It seems as though the Slashdot crew sees their community, and their influence primarily American, and so they adjusted the information to regard Americans. I think it was just a way to get a perspective on other country's contributions for a major portion of the Slashdot community, rather than a bias towards American contribution or whatever.

      • Exactly. This is a site run by Americans, and Americans know how much a dollar is worth. It's easy for Americans to understand that a billion dollars is a lot of money. However, if it said "billions of pesos", most of us would have been slightly confused, as the value of a peso is not common knowledge.

        I'm sure this will lead to someone blaming Americans for being uncultured in not learning the value of every other currency on the planet.
  • "Despite a year with a record number of space walks..."

    Um, how many space walks have there been this year?
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I've personally performed 23 moon walks since Jan. 1, 2001. Much to the delight of my three remaining fans.

      Michael Jackson
    • Looks like about 30 [nasa.gov].
  • by kingdon (220100) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:23PM (#2717666) Homepage

    I don't see this article as saying that Canada is going to rescue anything. Rather, they are lining up along with Europe to complain (with some justice, since NASA is not upholding the ISS agreements as they currently stand). Now, I suppose if a nation complains enough and is willing to use this as a bargaining chip (e.g. in trade talks or whatever kind of talks matter to the US), then complaining becomes a kind of action. But a much more direct sort of rescue, a more obviously effective one, would be to come up with some funding. Europe once built a half-scale prototype [esa.int] of (some portions of) a crew return vehicle, but in recent years that activity has changed to "well, maybe we could build a few components for the US crew return vehicle, that would be cheaper. Well, is Europe prepared to build their own crew return vehicle? Or pay Russia to supply more Soyuzes?

    The other amusing aspect of this whole thing is the number of times that the US has cancelled its part of a project (shuttle, partially; some science satellite in the 80's the name of which is at home; even Spacelab in a sense), and the fact that Europe (and other partners) fail to learn. It is like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown time after time, and Europe seems to always line up for another kick. I guess Canada is now joining them.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 17, 2001 @11:13PM (#2718058)
      Your second paragraph is dead right.

      The probe, by the way, was to be a US equivalent to Ulysses, so that ESA and NASA would have a probe going over a different pole of the Sun at the same time. We've lost a lot of science to that decision.

      There is a difference in attitude between the US and Europe/Canada/Japan. To the latter international treaties are binding documents; they are the *last* thing to go if you're having problems. (Look at the unsuccessful efforts the British made to get out of Concorde...)

      The USA, on the other hand, is the centre of the universe, the new Middle Kingdom, and treaties with other, inferior, nations are the *first* thing to be broken if The Land of The Free is getting squeezed. Or even if they aren't and just don't feel like it (Kyoto, landmines, NMD...). Meanwhile everyone else is expected to dance to their tune.

      Basically the Americans are a bunch of selfish, arrogant, isolationist pricks who are not to be trusted in any transnational agreement.

      Hopefully this has now hit home with ESA. Two reasons:

      1. the cost and high public profile of this FUBAR
      2. Canada and Japan have been shafted as well.

      I hope what we will see is these nations teaming up with Russia and China to build an alternate station to the brain-damaged political football of the ISS and become a new independent force in space exploration.
      • by ink (4325)
        I hope what we will see is these nations teaming up with Russia and China to build an alternate station to the brain-damaged political football of the ISS and become a new independent force in space exploration.

        What a joke. Nothing, and I mean absolutely NOTHING, is preventing Russia, China, Canada, Japan, et all from doing this RIGHT NOW. It's easy to kick the US when we're in a recession, involved in a war and just suffered billions in unilateral damages; and yet we are still the major funding for the ISS. I would be overjoyed if other nations would actually DO something other than bitch, like you seem content to do. Russia, for their part, have done extraordianary things with ISS (not to mention Mir), and I applaud them.

        Legislation in the USA changes from year to year just like in other nations, Everyone Knows Best(tm) how to spend the GNP, and NASA is just one such agency. Personally, I would love to fund NASA much more than it currently is funded, but I live in a democracy and I realize that my priorities don't coincide with many other Americans (much less with Canadians or Japanese). In short: there is no conspiracy, we don't rise every day thinking "How can I screw the rest of the world" -- the reality is quite the contrary.

        The sad thing is, in other forums we hear the exact opposite, but coincidental rant: "Why does the US spend so much god-damned money on NASA, they should be spending all that money on AIDS research" or the ever-classic "The space program just pollutes, we could spend that money on more green technologies that will benefit everyone." It is tiresome, to say the least.

      • The USA, on the other hand, is the centre of the universe, the new Middle Kingdom, and treaties with other, inferior, nations are the *first* thing to be broken if The Land of The Free is getting squeezed. Or even if they aren't and just don't feel like it (Kyoto, landmines, NMD...).

        Bullshit. A treaty can't be broken if it never came into force, and a vote of the EU is not sufficient to bind the U.S. to a treaty, no matter how good the EU might think it is. To be able to choose whether or not one wants to join a treaty is a basic right of being a soverign state, not an arrogant privilege demanded by the U.S.

        Kyoto was preemptively voted down 98-0 by the U.S. Senate. The U.S. announced in advance that it had no interest in the landmine treaty, because unlike, say, France, the U.S. has defense committments on a land border with the 4th largest army on Earth on the other side. The chemical weapons convention's inspection provisions would actually violate the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, and thus inherently cannot be adopted by the U.S. And the ABM treaty was bilateral between the U.S. and the now-nonexistant USSR, which repeatedly violated the the treaty anyway, and which we left though an explicit, in-treaty wihdrawal clause.

    • The different parts that were to be supplied by the nations involved in the ISS were agreed in a treaty document signed by all members. So far the US has reneged on this deal in three areas :

      1)The crew return vehicle
      2)The engine necessary to sustain the orbit of iss (instead we're relying on the shuttle for this)
      3)The number of supply flights

      I haven't heard of anybody else not supplying what they agreed to (sure the russians were late with one component but they came through in the end). So therefore the concerns raised by Canada, Japan & Europe seem to be valid.

      Why should the other nations pour more money into it when they've already seen their scientific programs destroyed by the US dragging their feet.

      If we want the lead role on this project it's we're going to have to pay the price for having the lead role.
  • We have better beer with a higher percentage of alcohol. The senators who decide this will either be happy not to be bribed yet again with a case of Bud Lite (tm), or will be unaccustomed to being quite so drunk during a vote.

    Furthermore, as a Canadian taxpayer, I will naturally be asked to help decide who gets to be an astronaut. Moderators, you know what to do.

  • It's kinda pathetic that Terrorists blow something up, and governments start tossing money at militaries, and ignore their space programs. Maybe the terrorists are just using the ground stuff as a distraction, to launch their orbiting "laser" of death.
  • Funding cuts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stone Rhino (532581) <<mparke> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:26PM (#2717681) Homepage Journal
    (begin rant)
    Funding cuts that make it impossible to do research should not be made, since this is a research platform, after all. If they cut funding to this, just like they did with DS1 (story earlier today), then the entire scientific commmunity is going to be pissed. What is the point of putting up a multi-billion dollar space station if not to do something more than have it just sit there, with no experiments being done? That ticking sound is the time before this thing plunges into the ocean years from now. the only question is "what do we do with it until then?"
    (/rant)
  • by elliott666 (447115) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:31PM (#2717710)
    "At least 2½[and a half] crew members are needed merely to operate the ISS."

    Wouldn't it be safe to round that up?
    • No, the statement is correct. They're planning on recruiting Verne Troyer as the 1/2 to save room.
      • Why aren't there more dwarf astronauts? Aren't they a lot cheaper to put into space? They weign less, eat less, breath less, take up less space... Maybe NASA could save a lot of dough by recruiting (or breeding) a race of puny astronauts!
    • Ahh, well there have been many break-throughs in "Chain Saw" tech.
      Alas the medical side has not yet catched up.

      mlk
    • Not nessicarly. There is either room for improvement (1/2 implys that if you could get rid of some tasks you would only need 2, or alternativly you have an extra administrative person should it be nessicary. Or perhaps someone who should be budgeted half to run ISS, half to do research, which is a good use for someone who has an expiriment that doesn't need full time attention. Rounding up would leave someone not busy, while rounding down (what if the true number is 2.499?) would leave you short a person, neither which is good when it is so expensive to send people up.

  • by Attila (23211) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:32PM (#2717715)
    Maybe the Japanese should have opted for a Mobile Suit Gundham instead of an Experiment Module Kibo.
  • by quantaman (517394) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:37PM (#2717732)
    Although I support the efforts of the ISS and orbital research from what I've heard there is in fact not a lot of good research they can do in weightlessness. Personally I think it says something when you're accepting experiments from junior high schools to do in space that probably converts to thousands of dollars of time and resources on the part of the space agency. Does anyone know of useful research being conducted by astronauts (i.e. no Hubble or exploration vehicles) or that has been proposed?
    • Although I support the efforts of the ISS and orbital research from what I've heard there is in fact not a lot of good research they can do in weightlessness

      The only reason to do space based research is because of the microgravity environment. If the experiment does not require weightlessness, then it is done on the ground.

      Personally I think it says something when you're accepting experiments from junior high schools...

      Personally, I think those are mostly publicity stunts to try to raise student interest in science.

      Does anyone know of useful research being conducted by astronauts...

      Fundamental science research is usually not considered "useful" in the sense that it has obvious immediate applications (then it would be called "technology" or "engineering"). Scientific research is all about discovering new things. Often these new things turn out to be "useful", but it's hard to know if something undiscovered is useful.

      There are a few hundred links to existing space research projects here: http://microgavity.grc.nasa.gov
  • ... many countries have poured $billions$ into it's development and should thus have a say in whether there should be any cutbacks.

    It seems to me that no country, business, person, or other entity should be obligated to continue paying unless a legally binding contract is in place to enforce such payment. In some jurisdictions, termination clauses are manditory for the contract to be considered legally binding.

    What binding contract is in place that actually stipulates who is obligated to pay what amount for the ISS? Are contracts even relevant when the United States in concerned? For example, when was the last time the United States paid its membership dues in the United Nations? What about its compliance with greenhouse emissions agreements?

    It seems to me, engaging the United States in a debate about cutbacks would be much like an ant trying to playing a game of chicken with a rhino. Being the resident superpower has its perks.
    • Sure, the US can start reneging on agreements and contracts. The rest of the world will just label it a Rogue State, and cease dealing with it.

      You aren't as big as you think you are. Losing Canada and China (for two) as trading partners would hurt you a hell of a lot, and the blatant disregard for all agreements that you imply the US should be able to get away with would cause that.

      Once we threw our own finks out of office, that is.


    • There are no legally binding contracts outside of a country (with some minor exception in the U.N.). What we have are treaties and agreements, and if we want other countries to continue to do what we want them to do then we must comply with our end of the treaties. Once we find that the services that the countries on the other end of the treaty supply to us are no longer useful, we withdraw from the treaty. The latest and most obvious example would be the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 ABM treaty. The U.S. has been developing ABM type mechanisms ever since the day the treaty was signed (although we, and the treaty, assured otherwise, heh) and has finally come to a point at which we are almost ready to start implementing these mechanisms. So, we withdraw from the treaty so that when we do implement the mechanisms, we aren't breaking the treaty.

      There wasn't a term limit on the treaty, or anything similar, so the U.S. can't be called on the actions here other than in a debate or whatnot.

    • Just a note, as it kind of got lost in the Sept news...

      This article [cato.org] dated September 25th, 2001, indicates in part:

      "Unanimous House Agrees To Pay U.N. Dues
      The House of Representatives yesterday unanimously approved legislation that would provide $582 million to pay back dues to the United Nations, a reflection of how the political landscape has been altered by the terrorist attacks two weeks ago, according to The Washington Post.

      For months, conservatives such as House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) had blocked the payment of U.N. arrears, but those lawmakers abandoned their opposition in light of the strikes in New York and Washington"
  • by cybrpnk (94636) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:46PM (#2717765)
    Welcome to the new NASA. Dubya is dumping Golden (love him or hate him, he WAS an engineer) to bring in a guy that is 100% bean counter. From a recent newspaper article (I think Houston Chronicle):

    ""...No one really knows what a finished station would cost. NASA said earlier this year that it faces a $4.8 billion shortfall over the next five years. Sean O'Keefe, nominated by President George W. Bush to become NASA administrator, testified Friday that he had no confidence in that number or any other estimate he had heard so far.
    At the close of the hearing Friday, Mr. O'Keefe was asked an open-ended question: "What is your vision?"
    .
    Mr. O'Keefe spoke for several minutes about "prudent management principles," reinvigorating "the entrepreneurial spirits" of NASA, the importance of collaboration with other elements of the federal government, the need to be mindful of safety and the possibility of taking advantage of this moment when NASA is at a crossroads.
    .
    He did not mention space."
    • Guess Jimmy Carter was right [discover.com]. If we could just teach our "rocket scientists" how to do English to Metric conversion, we could have saved $125 million in waste from NASA [cnn.com] in the accounting year of 1999 alone.

      There is nothing wrong with a good audit over NASA's budget. That budget is what a Butt Head Astronomer [geocities.com] would describe as billions and billions and billions and billions of dollars. The Mars Climate Orbiter was just one obvious sign of NASA waste. Getting someone in the accounting field might just be able to help NASA maximize the funds it has and achieving more with the same.

      Since the head of NASA is not going to greet the great beyond, he really need not be a scientist. Just someone who is effective running a massive organization funded by taxpayer dollars. As Dennis Tito [space.com] has shown, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to make it into space. In fact, being good with money and budgets was what lead him to the stars.

      • Sure, and then it is something else.

        Where I work there are always big questions when ever someone says slot 1. Did you mean slot 1 as in 1-16, or slot 1 as in 0-15. Of course hardware loves the 0-15 notation because it fits in 4 bits so nicely, while users like the 1-16 arangement because you start counting from 1. Every computer scientist recignises out problem, and most have faced it.

        Metric could be called the problem, if Nasa had been using the older imperial units there wouldn't have been a problem. Of course if the whole thing was metric there wouldn't be a problem either. It doesn't matter in the end, becuase metric's big advantage is unit conversions, and nobody does unit conversions, even in metric where they are easy too many mistakes are made.

    • You're right. What we need at NASA is a grown-up Trekkie with a fire in his belly to put us on Mars in 10 years and taking day-trips to Venus in 15. Somebody who will do nothing but talk about space and space exploration, damn the cost.

      You'd better be more careful in showing so much scorn, or I might figure out how many starving children the failed Climate Orbiter could have fed if those wonderful engineers of yours had excercised some form of due diligence [cnn.com] (oooh.. a dirty, nasty accounting-type term...)

  • Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slubberdegullion (544119) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:49PM (#2717776)
    It seems to me that cutting back on astronauts now would be like buying a Porsche, then only driving it a few times in order to save on gas. The US has already committed huge amounts of money to this project, and cutting back now could severely limit the usefulness of the space station, making it a complete waste of money.
    • I disagree.

      Cutting back now is like buying a V8 Mustang, then scrapping your plans to add a body kit, slicks, blower, aftercooler and nitro -- you can't do as much as you originally planned, but you can still get from place to place.

  • I guess I can overlook the rather parochial tone of the phrase "contrary to the belief..." I'm sure many comments have been quick to point out that the belief in question is held almost exclusively by people who do not know the significance of the letter "I" in ISS.

    But it's true that NASA involvement is now crucial, and on that point the decision of Congress is sovereign. If you are a US voter and you disagree with Congress's decisions on NASA funding, you know what to do.

    On the bright side, I don't think space is going to go away any time soon, and not only are there still many delightful things to explore on earth, outer space itself is becoming far more accessible in the form of robot probes and orbiting telescopes.

    Whilst curtailment of the ISS would be bad news for manned space flight in the short term, I don't think it would necessarily be bad news for science as a whole. There is just so much else upon which it would be at least as sensible to spend the science budget of any country.


    • Cathy,

      I will admit, now that you mention it, "contrary to the belief..." is perhaps a little leaning. It makes sense given the larger context of the story, but as a synopsis it risks creating a straw-man unecessarily.
  • This is weird... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by laserjet (170008) on Monday December 17, 2001 @09:52PM (#2717785) Homepage
    "Mr. O'Keefe is a budget hawk and has said he believes that technical excellence at any cost is not an acceptable approach by NASA.

    This seems like a rather odd thing to say to the press... I would think if *I* was relying on NASA to do something in space, I would sure want "technical excellence" at any cost. This is not a walk in the park, it is space exploration, and attention DOES need to be paid to detail.

    or am I wrong?

    • by Jodka (520060)

      ... I would think if *I* was relying on NASA to do something in space, I would sure want "technical excellence" at any cost... or am I wrong?


      If you have technical excellence at any cost, and that cost you can not afford, then you do not have technical excellence. If, on the other hand, you have technical excellence at affordable cost, then you do have technical excellence.

      So yes, you are wrong.


      My brain has a mind of its own.
  • by ShadeEagle (153172) <tehshingen@gmai l . com> on Monday December 17, 2001 @10:02PM (#2717825) Journal
    Bah.

    Too many people here are bashing USA, and saying "oh, we're better than USA because of *reason X* or *reason Y*"...

    To those of you who are doing this, take a second and think. Are we really that much better? Do we have to take our argument to an international forum and play the patriot?

    The USA, despite it's flaws, is not as bad as a lot of people think. If it was such a bad place, they'd have all moved out of there by now! Besides, the USA is where Megatokyo comes from, and it's also where a lot of anime and video games are distributed from.

    And Canada HAS flaws. Sure, our Prime Minster, the Right Honourable Jean Chretien was seen choking and throwing a potential assailant... Sure, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, Chris Jericho, Alex Trebek, etc. come from Canada...

    But to those who believe in the right to bear arms up here - we can't. To those who believe that we have freedom of speech? Freedom of the press? Not in Canada. The government can censor you if they so choose.

    The point is: It's the holidays, friends. Break out the egg nog, or beer if you prefer, and let's celebrate life. We're friendly neighbors... why not ACT like it for a change? We should like each other despite our many flaws.

    Happy Holidays to one and all.
    • > But to those who believe in the right to bear
      > arms up here - we can't.

      We can bear arms. We don't consider it some sort of fundamental right. What, exactly, about being human confers the inalienable right to posses objects whose primary purpose is to kill other humans? You may want that right, but that doesn't mean the majority of people agree with you.

      > To those who believe
      > that we have freedom of speech? Freedom of the > press? Not in Canada. The government can
      > censor you if they so choose.

      What in the gibbering fuck are you talking about?!

      From The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

      2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
      a) freedom of conscience and religion;
      b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
      c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
      d) freedom of association.

      Read it yourself [justice.gc.ca]
      • primary purpose is to kill other humans

        That is not the primary purpose of guns. The large majority of guns are never used to kill other humans. Most are used for target shooting and hunting. I don't know anyone who has used a gun to kill people, either accidently or intentionally. I know many people with guns, most of whom have put food on their table with it.

        To say that a gun is primarly for killing other humans is propaganda pure and simple.

    • But to those who believe in the right to bear arms up here - we can't. To those who believe that we have freedom of speech? Freedom of the press? Not in Canada. The government can censor you if they so choose.

      Um, Canada does have a constitutionally enshrined Charter of Rights and Freedoms that is very similar to the American charter in scope and strength. There is no constitutional guarantee of any right to bear arms, but even in the U.S., this provision is anachronistic and is kept alive for entirely the wrong reasons.

      Both governments censor speech to some extent, but both are among the freest countries in the world with respect to protecting the legal right to free expression.

      There are serious impediments to free speech for most residents of both countries, but this is largely the result of speech costing money combined with the decision to extend the right of free speech to nonhuman corporate entities with vast resources that can easily be used to overwhelm all other voices. (Coca Cola has billions to spend each year to get out its message; how much can you afford to spend?)
    • Alex Trebek is Canadian?

      That's it.... nuke the place.
  • "Japan's contribution is the Kibo, a laboratory to be launched and assembled on the ISS starting in September of 2004."

    The name of that module is unfortunate on so many levels.
  • "Laser" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by boopus (100890) on Monday December 17, 2001 @10:12PM (#2717858) Journal
    Do you ever get the feeling that if we just let G. Dubbya hang a few "lasers" off the ISS let him point them at caves where "terrorists" live the space station could have an unlimited budget?

    That being said, I'd agreee with the poster who pointed out that the ISS is a huge expenditure compared to what we could do with many smaller projects, but I think it's necessary to have big prjects that are the culimination of the technology that's being devised. Classes that don't have final exams are always considered slacker classes because people don't have a goal to work towards, and the same thing could be said for space projects.
  • That's okay! We'll just print more money to pay for it all! That's what Bush is doing with this stimulus plan, thats what we did to fund the war, hell lets just print more money for NASA too and solve all our problems, then in 2 years we can all sit back and drink our US$25 8oz can of coke and laugh at these times.
  • But everything must be perfect, damn the cost... reminds me so much of *my* dot-com days. I watched in wonder as they ordered Sun 250's for each mail server - light duty servers at that. Everything else got 450's.

    It was perfect - and we became dot.compost at the end of the year....
  • Go Canada (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    NASA must feel like a little kid when mommy and daddy are fighting in public.

    I'm on Canada's side for sure. More power to them for giving NASA and the U.S. Congress the kick in the ass they deserved. NASA is an (somewhat) unwitting overspender and Congress is right to want to reduce their funds. But a committment was made. Backing down on that committment will have an exponentially dimishing effect on the project which equals a waste of the starting investment.

    And it'll make the station less neat.

    -DiggsBiggly
  • Money money money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cato the Elder (520133) on Monday December 17, 2001 @11:37PM (#2718110) Homepage
    The article claims that various governments claim that the US is violating treaty-level contractual obligations by making a budget cutback. Maybe, but they certainly don't cite convincing sources. Can anyone do better?

    Also, while other countries may have poured billions of dollars (US) into the project, note that even according to the article this is a small percentage. The article states that the Canadian robot arm cost $1.4 billion and gives them 2.3 % of the research space. The European module is quoted as costing the same. That means Canada and Europe, total, have 4.6% of the research space. Assuming Japan's contribution isn't vastly more expensive, or there isn't some other big player the article didn't mention, that means about 90% of the research space, and presumably the budget, came from the US.

    If there were treaties to prevent the US from doing this, then the US should be constrained by them. If not, the US should at least be willing to provide use of launching facilities and shuttles at a reasonable cost. But beyond that, pay up. "He who pays the piper calls the tune"--and that includes telling him to go away. Unless otherwise negotiated, the US has no obligation to let other people piggyback their space efforts on its own.

  • by Epistax (544591)
    We screw up about 90% of the money we spend on land, and only about 50% of the money we send to space. Come on it doesn't take a statistics major to realize we might as well blow it on something worth the odds :) We've grown too lazy to actually directly care where our money goes. It goes to interest groups who we assume will put it where it's needed, which is, granted, mainly attacking small 3rd world countries.
  • by notcarlos (139684) <jcl08 AT uark DOT edu> on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @12:50AM (#2718321) Homepage
    And I'll say it again: US-Government domination of space needs to end. Since the end of the cold war, NASA and, to a very small extent, its Russian counterpart have more or less ruled space. Sure, there've been a number of "private" or corporate launches, but all of them have come from Cape with a heavy kickback to NASA.

    What is needed is for private corporations to take up the slack, building their own launch sites and launching their own whatevers. If this means corporate domination of space, then so be it. I would rather see the Microsoft Starship Gates make warp one than none at all.
  • by tenchiken (22661) on Tuesday December 18, 2001 @02:16AM (#2718545)
    does not mean the other one is true.

    He makes an interesting point that - contrary to the belief that the ISS is a NASA brainchild/braintrust . ISS is a NASA goal (to the extreme detriment to what I would argue should be the real focus, probes going out to learn about the solar system. On top of that, not only are we sinking 100+ Billion dollors on this (100x the contribution of any other country... and for good measure we are covering most of the soviet's costs as well), we are cutting programs that would go out and examine the Kuiper belt, the sun, etc.


    Think of what kind of knowledge we could gain. Long term space research? bzzt. Soviets already did that. Radation effects on humans? bzzt.


    The entire problem is that this space station was created by the state department and congress rather then the scientists. ISS? What ever happened to freedom and liberty the first names of this project.

    Screw the space station. Give us a workable re-usable launcher and the NGST.

  • Maybe I'm just uninformed, but it seems to me that by leaving space exploration to the egg-heads at these govt science agencies, we are not making the kind of progress a more ambitious goal-oriented approach might produce.

    In the 60's man went to the moon. The moon! Many times. We haven't been back in decades.

    Why is there no base on the moon? Why aren't there more space stations in orbit? I think part of the reason is that the focus is on doing dumb experiments instead of just building these facilities as rapidly as possible.

    The shuttle was a big step forward. Mir was a big step forward. The ISS will benefit from both these achievements. What I object to is reading quotes from guys at McGill University who are getting bucks to do research on reflexes in space. This is idiotic when we still need lots of money to put more facilities and equipment up there.

    I figure you could spend all your money every year on pure research science. And I think you'd get a lot out of it. But it should be remembered that it was guys like Columbus, Hudson and Cook who made the big discoveries of the last exploratory period. Guys who went and did what they wanted to do to see if they could. They weren't sailing ships filled with lab rats and experiments. They wanted to see what was around the next corner, see if they could get there, and see if they could settle there. I don't understand why this spirit has been lost.

    Goals need to be set. ISS completion by 2005. Base on the moon by 2010. Man on Mars by 2015. Base on Mars by 2020. Let's get a move on.

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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