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Space The Almighty Buck

No More Science on the ISS Until Further Notice 223

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the privatization-is-the-answer dept.
Dyna-Soar writes "Discovery Channel News is reporting that NASA is canceling scientific research projects on the International Space Station until construction is complete. This may not happen before 2010 or 2012." From the article: "In addition to beginning development of a new manned launch system, expenses to return the shuttle fleet to flight following the 2003 Columbia disaster and delays completing the International Space Station have left NASA with a projected shortfall of up to $5 billion over the next five years"
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No More Science on the ISS Until Further Notice

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  • by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:36AM (#13977264)
    If only congress could get the hint and stop castrating Nasa...
  • by PrinceAshitaka (562972) * on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:37AM (#13977265) Homepage
    Why bother finising the ISS if you are not going to use it to increase scientific knowlegde. I guess filling the pockets of the contractors is the real reason for the ISS, not science.
  • by MLopat (848735) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:41AM (#13977274) Homepage
    You'll all probably mod me down for this, but I actually this is a good move on NASA's part. We all realize the purpose of the space station is to provide scientific research, but in light of recent problems plaguing the shuttle program, the safety of the astronauts should be the foremost consideration. Not much point in moving into an appartment building until its been built, and the same thing applies to an orbiting piece of metal.
  • Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:49AM (#13977287)
    Considering the ISS hasn't produced any scientific results worthy of the name, I don't regard this as any great loss. I'd even go so far as to call it anti-scientific - the one thing the ISS has managed to do is strangle funding for telescopes and rovers that that might send back actual data. The ISS hasn't sent back anything more interesting than a bit more footage of astronauts chasing globules of tang.
  • Just imagine (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davmoo (63521) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:49AM (#13977291)
    Imagine what the station could have been like if our government hadn't wasted that $300 billion dollars bombing the shit out of another nation based on lies about invisible weapons of mass destruction.

    Its funny how we can always come up with money to kill, but there's never enough money for science.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:50AM (#13977294)
    If only NASA wasn't composed of a massive inefficient bureaucracy...
  • by MaelstromX (739241) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:51AM (#13977298)
    Agreed. Also forgive my naivité but it seems to me like the conditions up there in and around the ISS that researchers take advantage of ("zero" gravity, et al) can be recreated on earth for research purposes, even if it's a bit more inconvenient to do so. It's only a temporary measure and necessary for the long term survival of the ISS (and indeed of the space program in general, as any more injuries or deaths in the near future would be disastrous in light of the recent Columbia disaster).
  • by Capt'n Hector (650760) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:52AM (#13977299)
    We all realize the purpose of the space station is to provide scientific research...

    Bullshit.

    The reason it's a good move though isn't safety or anything like that. The cost of the experiments they run is nothing compared with maintaining the station, and the experiments the astronauts are performing are not dangerous at all. The reason it's a good move is because it's the next best thing to scrapping the whole thing and letting the station fall from the sky (which is what they really want to do, but can't because of contractual agreements, international relations, public backlash, embarrassment, Bush, ...)

  • by Timberwolf0122 (872207) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:53AM (#13977301) Journal
    I think there will be hotels in space befor they finaly finnish the ISS. ISS will be renamed I-DSS and used to house the minimum wage cleaners for the hotels.

    Seriously though, people in a space station are very expensive in the long run and although they provide fascility for micro-gravity research ect alot of this could be achived with and un-maned drone.
    People on the moon however I think is a much better idea as with a few basic supplies it could become self sufficiant what with all the free water and an ample back yard to stick solar pannels, make hydrogen fuel and grow food stuffs. Plus the added bonus of hulking great lumps of rock to shield from radiation.
  • by lightyear4 (852813) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @03:59AM (#13977322) Homepage
    NASA could always charge for experiments to be conducted. Plenty of R&D groups would pay up if it were reasonable, and everyone benefits.
  • by Rakishi (759894) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:02AM (#13977326)
    "while in the same breath the administration announces NASA's funds being cut"

    Yes funding is getting cut... you mean like those negative cuts they got the last two years right?
  • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@CHEETAHnexusuk.org minus cat> on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:02AM (#13977327) Homepage
    the conditions up there in and around the ISS that researchers take advantage of ("zero" gravity, et al) can be recreated on earth for research purposes

    How exactly do you create a long term microgravity environment on earth?
  • by Julian Morrison (5575) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:08AM (#13977340)
    ...if you take building the ISS as a goal.

    But frankly, why would you? ISS isn't a step forward to anywhere. It doesn't do anything much other than "showcase international cooperation". The science it was doing was of the "train ants to sort tiny screws in space" variety. Even the Wikipedia article can't muster much definitive purpose, beyond the usual vague claim of technical spin-offs.

    They should either decide that it's a tool for a task, redesign and build towards that, or de-orbit the whole junkpile into the nearest ocean. To carry on building for the sake of mere inertia would be nuts.
  • by Mike Markley (9536) <madhack@m a d hack.com> on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:35AM (#13977405)
    Except that nowhere did it state that we wouldn't be sending crew. All it says is that the scientific programs have been cancelled and that they're going to focus on reliably transporting crew to orbit before they try to conduct research. Evidently the ISS is now a multi-billion dollar campsite in space. Maybe we can get a sponsorshop from KOA.

    We can't have it both ways (saving money/focusing resources by not conducting research while still expending resources keeping it running), and we shouldn't try. Either fund the fucking thing, hand it over to the Europeans and Japanese and let them worry about it, or deorbit it and be done with it. Or, as they say in some circles: shit or get off the pot.
  • by Mostly a lurker (634878) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @05:02AM (#13977455)
    I won't be surprised if in 15 years time, NASA simply won't exist anymore. I just hope that by that time, there isn't a need for it.
    I have felt for a while that the long term future of space research (both commercial and for national prestige) lies in Asia. I think much of the critical materials research will come from Japan, reliable rocket technology from India and China, electronics from Taiwan and Korea, and governmental support for major advances mainly from China.

    The US and Europe will increasingly have other concerns, with the political will for expensive space projects generally lacking. While the US will probably be able to claim the "credit" for the militarisation of space, I do not believe the US desire to feed its defense industry with boondoggles like an "anti missile shield" will lead to much useful technology for space exploration, exploitation or eventual colonisation.

    Russia, if its economy permits, might remain a power to be reckoned with. Certainly, national pride in its ability to achieve practical results with a lower budget than the Americans is a factor.

  • Cancel it now (Score:4, Insightful)

    by seanellis (302682) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @05:03AM (#13977461) Homepage Journal
    If the goal is to kill it, then why keep spending the money on construction if it's never going to be finished?

    I'd say cut your losses, mothball it now and spend the money on robotic missions to Europa, a prototype asteroid mining mission that actually produces real product (e.g. water for reaction mass), orbiters for Uranus and Neptune, advanced nuclear (ooh, the n-word!) propulsion systems so that deep space missions that don't take decades, and actually get some science done.

    I guess it's all a bit moot, though, since by 2020 everyone will be buying elevator tickets from Liftport instead... :-)
  • by The Wooden Badger (540258) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @05:10AM (#13977473) Homepage Journal
    The space program also gave us Gore-Tex. I likes the Gore-Tex. Then there's also the probes that have been sent out into space and the space telescopes. I'm pretty sure our knowledge of Physics has been advanced by the space program, but yeah other than that it's Teflon.
  • by Thomsen (30383) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @05:20AM (#13977493)
    A quick search on arxiv.org for 'International Space Station' yields four papers.

    For comparison, a search for 'Hubble Space Telescope' gives over 200 papers.


    On the other hand a quick search on MedLine http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi [nih.gov] for "International Space Station" gives 511 papers, whereas a search for "Hubble Space Telescope" only gives 70 papers.

    The low number of papers found at arxiv.org is probably related to a selection bias from that site. In particular, medical sciences seems not to be represented. Similarly, papers related to the Hubble Space Telescope is not well represented in MedLine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @05:24AM (#13977502)
    i was not a great discocery to bring fresh fruit
    on board a ship in Columbuses times, just
    like it wasn't much of a "discovery" to bring
    lemon tress, etc ... on a ship sailing around
    the globe ...
    my guess is that the ISS has made many small
    but important "discoveries" for future
    long duration manned space flights ... but nothing
    bill board worth like "cure to cancer discovered
    on ISS" :P i mean didn't the japanese have some
    neat-o material research in zero-g with results?!
  • Re:Just imagine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @05:32AM (#13977520)
    Imagine what the station could have been like if our government hadn't wasted that $300 billion dollars bombing the shit out of another nation based on lies about invisible weapons of mass destruction.
    I have imagined, and it would be exactly like it is now. Do you honestly think that the federal government was intending to shower 10s or 100s of billions of dollars on NASA if we didn't go to Iraq? The answer is simply no. The NASA budget has been tight for decades. Any argument that NASA would be in much better shape if it wasn't for Iraq is simply ludicrous. Let's stay on subject.
  • by TropicalCoder (898500) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @05:50AM (#13977573) Homepage Journal
    Back before we had space stations, Science Fiction always visualized them as a way point for other destinations rather than just for research. Seems scientific research alone can't justify the enormous expense involved, and that the concept of a space station as a jumping off point is not often considered as necessary.

    I would like to offer an alternative to completing the ISS, and Pres. Bush's "Moon, Mars, and beyond". How about we make "The Search for Life" the priority instead? For the price of the ISS, we could have had rovers on all the planetary bodies where there is even a remote chance of finding life, and sample return missions as well. The ISS can be used as is, as a quarantine for the returning samples. Put manned exploration on the back burner for now. At the rate technology is always advancing, when we get back to doing manned missions someday, we will have - who knows - space elevators or whatever to make the job much easier. The advantage of the focus as I propose is that it doesn't call for some mega-construction with mega-funding and attendant mega-bureaucracy. By it's nature, it's done in small steps like NASA's "Smaller, cheaper, faster" missions. Just imagine little rovers on the ground, and rovers in the air, all over the Solar System? Scientists will access and guide them via the Internet. Every university in the world will participate. I think it's a good bet were are going to find some microbes somewhere. Even if we don't, we will have learned a tremendous amount of planetary sciences along the way, much more than we ever would as things stand.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @05:52AM (#13977578) Homepage Journal
    I can think of a few uses, but they all involve something you science geeks don't seem to be interested in: colonization. The purpose of the space station is to stage fuel and components so you can do missions that require mass that won't fit on top of a single launch vehicle. Without a place to stage fuel and components you can't possibly justify the creation of reusable launch vehicles and you end up with infrastructures like "Apollo On Steroids". All the research that has been happening on the ISS (or should we say, not happening) has been in the pointless persuit of "science" when what the research really should be focusing on is storing fuel in LEO and assembling spacecraft from modules launched into LEO seperately. If you don't do that you can't possibly build a spacecraft that can take 100 people to the Moon. All you can build is fuckin' Apollo On Steriods.
  • Re:Just imagine (Score:4, Insightful)

    by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @06:49AM (#13977696)
    Imagine what the station could have been like if our government hadn't wasted that $300 billion dollars bombing the shit out of another nation based on lies about invisible weapons of mass destruction.

    Better yet, imagine what the Apollo programme could have been like if the government hadn't wasted all that money bombing the shit out of another nation based on paranoia about communism and the domino theory...

    Another space programme, another pointless bloody mess of a war. America, Fuck Yeah!

  • by Glock27 (446276) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @07:56AM (#13977874)
    How does the cost of NASA compare the amount squandered on the military?

    NASA is much smaller. Note that some view the money spent on NASA as "squandered". I see value in what NASA does, but I do feel it's a very inefficient organization in some areas (manned space flight being the worst). Now we have the ISS doing nothing useful for 5 or so years... Yeesh that thing is a white elephant.

    If Bush were serious about interplanetary flight he'd start construction of a nuclear powered space-only ship, with a hefty lander, using ISS as the assembly plant. I'm pretty sure we could build a low-thrust nuclear design that'd get to Mars in a few weeks rather than many months. That would greatly change the equation in many ways, and would show the utility of the space station concept. It would even make Mars colonization practical.

    SpaceX [spacex.com] is doing some great things, and shows the power of private ownership to lower costs. Their newest design, Falcon 9, is impressive with an ability to loft 24 metric tons at a time into LEO, at only $78 million a shot. You could build a massive interplanetary craft with just a few shots... I can't see this approach costing "hundreds of billions of dollars", but then again I'm not a government expert at inflating costs.

    Of course our Luddite anti-nuclear "friends" would scream bloody murder about the Mars ship being nuclear, so it won't happen anytime soon, IMO.

  • by glitchvern (468940) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @08:14AM (#13977944) Homepage
    Why bother finising the ISS if you are not going to use it to increase scientific knowlegde. I guess filling the pockets of the contractors is the real reason for the ISS, not science.

    The first reason to finish the ISS is we are under international obligation to finish it. That is to say we promised Europe, Russia, Japan, Canada, and Brazial that we would finish it.
    The second reason is that scientific research projects will resume once ISS is completed in 2010 or 2012. This is roughly the same time period as the CEV begins operations. Once the CEV begins operations the crew size on the ISS can go up. The current crew size of three is barely able to keep the the station running. The station was suppose to have a crew size of 7, but the cancellation of the CRV means only a 3 person crew can occupy the station safely. An increased crew size will be much better able to maintain the station and conduct experiments.
  • Where's the proof? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alexwcovington (855979) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @09:01AM (#13978155) Journal
    I've tried confirming this story on Google... I see a space probe mission or two cancelled, and some evidence that science operations on station are being somewhat neglected, but nothing as wildly improbable as a total cancellation of payload science operations on the ISS.
    TFA seems to misinterpret the administrator's comments before Congress. He speaks of suspending NASA's own research projects in life science and nuclear propulsion.... the kind of cutting edge stuff needed for 9-month trips to Mars (or having the speed to reduce that to a more manageable timeframe).
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @09:46AM (#13978443) Journal
    So are you suggesting that we not critizise the space program when it deserves it? What is the alternative, watching it make the same massively expensive (and sometimes deadly) mistakes over and over again?
  • by jsd303 (918708) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @09:49AM (#13978460)
    I'm tired of hearing things like "we can't afford NASA" when we can clearly afford HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of dollars blowing people to bits in foreign countries. Hell, we've gone from a 5 Trillion dollar surplus to a projected deficit of 12 Trillion (dubya's projected deficit when leaving office) in just 8 years (a total of 17-18 TRILLION dollars)... What's another 5 Billion? I mean, I recognize that we have to watch where our Billions go when it isn't being given to Halliburton in no-bid contracts, but other than that we should scrutinize every penny! I sure miss the innocent days of $800 hammers. Remember, it's important to have corporate kick-backs and welfare, the Bush Administration just wants to make sure that no money is spent on that there learnin' or science n stuff. Might piss off the extreme fundamentalist Christian terrorists and their crazy ideology in THIS country... They'll have to move from blowing up the soon-to-be closed abortion clinics (thanks Alito!) to blowing up those crazy NASA centers of knowledge. It won't be long now, and Halliburton will be awarded the no-bid contract to build a $3 Trillion Dollar replica of the Ten Commandments to be placed in the White House! I'm so glad that "honor and integrity have been restored to the White House."
  • by Hlewagastir (857624) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:45AM (#13978947)
    Somehow I doubt the US government, as tightfisted as it is with information, would turn the ISS into an "area 51" for space militarization. I'm sure the countries which helped bear the burden of getting the damned thing up there in the first place would love that. They do after all have their own keys to the apartment, so to speak. I hope this was intended as sarcasm.
  • I'm not worried (Score:4, Insightful)

    by n54 (807502) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:50AM (#13978991) Homepage Journal
    That was one of the most insightful posts I've read lately.

    For those who, like me, actually support humans in space almost all comments regarding space on /. reads like a bunch of luddites complaining and it's getting old. So if any of those actually support an, over time, increasing human presence in space they should get out of their "old grumpy man" act. To put it in a simple way the astronauts sent to ISS are themselves the biggest experiment and the most important one (and if anyone thinks that could be done on earths surface they've reached rock bottom - pun not intended). The ISS serves as a real testbed for hands on technology concerned with keeping humans alive in space for prolonged periods and with increased efficiency and reliability. Yes, it has the potential to be much more over time, personally I hope that at some point in the future when we are actually ready to do so its orbit can be boosted to GEO, but that is of course a long way off and money is actually the least objection to doing it right away: we don't presently have the requisite technology at a sufficient level to make it worthwhile, not even close.

    And so what if the ISS program was used for more than just its face value of space science? Why is that such a horror? Isn't it actually better to employ people in science that benefits us than let them languish and in likelihood be employed against us?

    For being a supposed "Nerd" site /. doesn't actually contain many readers that seem to be aware of how incrementally and tediously science normally progresses. Many seem to think that science progresses like the technology tree in some C&C-like game and /. is filled with people who think it more important to criticize NASA (or Burt Rutan or anyone else actually trying to do something it seems) than to actually say something enlightened (!=rehashed bickering). I guess we can all blame the armchair for that :)

    Anyway I'm not worried as I doubt anyone on /. has much clout either politically and scientifically and the ranting doesn't actually affect much except the /. "image".

    Recommended reading:
    http://www.space.com/adastra/adastra_hustle_part1_ 050818.html [space.com]

    The danger of that link of course is that it will shame people into shutting up.... what am I saying? this is /. lol
  • Com/Edu research? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GerTheDwarf (678874) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:09AM (#13979149) Journal
    All I saw in the article is that NASA won't be funding any of its own research. To me, that just means there will be room open on the ISS for educational institutions to put experiments into microgravity. Heck, NASA could even license their "research space" to commercial entities. I see a lot of people assuming that because the government won't be spending money on research that it won't happen. I think it will continue to happen, and NASA might even make some money out of it.
  • by iamlucky13 (795185) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @01:44PM (#13980696)
    Ahh, I see the luddites wasted no time in responding. Just to make sure there's some serious discussion though...

    While I'm impressed with SpaceX's progress so far and have my fingers crossed for a successful launch within the next month, keep in mind that they have yet to prove the Falcon 1, much less the Falcon 9 or the impressive 27 engine, side-stacked spin-off they've proposed. Remember also, that the $78 million price tag is a goal, probably slightly optimistic, and that's the launch cost only. It doesn't include the cost of the payload.

    I think eventually a nuclear-powered Mars shuttle could be a great idea. If we were to reach the point of regular Martian travel, it could be fueled and mated to a payload (such as a lander) in earth orbit, deliver the payload to a Mars orbit and return another payload from Mars back to an earth orbit where it would be refueled and mated with a new payload for the next mission. At this point, however, we need to focus on getting to Mars and figuring out exactly what it will take to establish a permanent presence and if it's worth the cost before we invest billions of dollars developing, billions testing, and billions more building a craft with such a focused purpose. Trust me, it will take billions to design a new fission reactor and get it certified for launch, and there will be a huge fuss (probably costing billions more) over who's qualified to launch it, if anybody.

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