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Space

US Not Getting Money's Worth From ISS 217

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the give-ya-five-bucks-for-it dept.
greysky writes "On the 45th anniversary of his first trip into space, astronaut John Glenn says the U.S. is not getting it's money's worth out of the International Space Station. From the article: "Diverting money from the orbiting research outpost to President Bush's goal of sending astronauts back to the moon and eventually on to Mars is preventing some scientific experiments on the space station"."
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US Not Getting Money's Worth From ISS

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  • oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:23PM (#18096954)
    Tell the President there's oil on the ISS.
    • Re:oblig. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:43PM (#18097240)
      Now why would you want us to invade the station? Its allready falling apart witout us bombing it.
    • Re:oblig. (Score:4, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:01PM (#18097496)
      Too much trouble. You would have to start by explaining to him what "ISS" stood for. Then you would have to explain the concept of a "space station." Then you would have to explain about a hundred other things, like why we need oxygen on a space station, why astronauts wear spacesuits, etc. By then, it would be his nap-time, and since he always wakes up cranky you'd just have to come back the next day and start all over again.

      Better to just go right to Cheney.

      -Eric

    • The correct moderation for this is -1 Cheapshot.
    • by Kjella (173770)
      So he'll divert money from the Iraq war to the Star Wars program?
    • by Minwee (522556)
      Are you sure that's a good idea? He'll just send somebody up there with a big drill.
    • by NitsujTPU (19263)
      This joke gets even funnier every time I hear it. This is a good thing, since I hear it quite frequently.

      I have another good one. Why did the chicken cross the road?
    • by timeOday (582209)
      Watching the last election cycle, I learned exactly why we have a president who focuses on oil: because that's what the American people care about most deeply. Despite tens of thousands dying in Iraq, most of the news coverage and most of the carping I heard personally was about the energy crunch. Look at this graph [leftbusinessobserver.com]. Now tell me why NASA is not at the top of the President's agenda.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Floody (153869)

        Watching the last election cycle, I learned exactly why we have a president who focuses on oil: because that's what the American people care about most deeply. Despite tens of thousands dying in Iraq, most of the news coverage and most of the carping I heard personally was about the energy crunch. Look at this graph. Now tell me why NASA is not at the top of the President's agenda.

        No, he focuses on oil and the related strife and struggle because its a relatively solid tactic to divert as much attention a

    • by MikeyTheK (873329)
      I guess it depends on the meaning of what "ISS" ISS.
  • It was a bunch of compromises so we could have a presence in space. Its kinda sad that the Hotel in Space dude might actually end up being more successful at it!
    • Re:Indeed. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by monkeydo (173558) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:43PM (#18097250) Homepage
      And just what does he mean by "Getting our money's worth?"

      "To not utilize that station the way [b]I think it ought to be utilized[/b] is just wrong," said Glenn. Thanks for clearing that up, Senator.

      • Re:Indeed. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rei (128717) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:32PM (#18097966) Homepage
        He's hardly alone in that view. The current plan for what to do with the ISS is bloody ridiculous: finish spending a fortune to get it built, and then not fund it for long past there. The components mostly have expected ~40 year lifespans (and judging by other craft, say the MERs, this is probably an underestimate), but once we finally get to the "cheap" part (maintenence of the station), we're just going to let it burn.

        And why? Why, so we can go to the moon! And set up a permanent base there, with enough room for half a dozen people To do low-gravity research! In a vaccuum! With three times the cost for delivery of supplies! And we'll spend two decades building it, with huge cost overruns. And opposition to the moon base will grow. And the government will insist on "getting it done", and then divert all funds for operation of it onto some other project that's the "new things". Sound familiar?

        It's not the cost overruns on ISS that bothers me. It's not the capabilities of ISS or the kind of science that can be conducted there that bother me (it's actually much better than most peoples' perception of it). It's this whole "lets get it up to full capacity so we can say we built it, then let it crash so that we can move onto our next disturbingly-similar project" attitude that bothers me.
        • The moon base could theoretically become self sustaining. If they could get a good source of water they could supply themselves with pretty much everything else they require.
          • Re:Indeed. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Rei (128717) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @02:10PM (#18098592) Homepage
            No, it couldn't. Even ignoring the technological hurdles, of the basic elements required for all life (CHONP), the moon only has (in relevant quantities) O -- and it's all locked up in minerals that take a lot of energy to extract. If water is found, add H, but you're still missing CNP.

            The moon is very mineral poor. It has huge quantities of certain elements, but is largely devoid in most. It is not a place to build a self-sustaining colony.

            Even producing food on the moon with recycled/Earth imported nutrients would be a nightmare, given that you have a choice between only low-angle light all day (and only in very tiny regions of the moon), light for two weeks then darkness for two, or using a huge amount of electric power at an awful efficiency conversion rate (perhaps 2% of the energy you input ending up as food). It'd be easier in space, and as we know, it's not easy in space. Completely closed habitats are nasty for plants in ways that most people wouldn't expect. For example, ethylene. Plants produce it. On Earth, it blows away and breaks down. Harmless to humans. However, to plants, it's many times more deadly than carbon monoxide is to humans. Hard to detect in such tiny quantities, and hard to prevent from accumulating. That is just one of many, many problems that must be addressed.

            Not that other aspects of building a self sustaining colony on a more mineral-rich world are any easier. In fact, they're much, much harder. Take any piece of technology essential for running a colony -- let's say, an ore crusher. Pick just one component of that ore crusher, preferably one that gets consumed over time -- let's say, its oil for lubrication. Trace back all of the components (petroleum oils, silicone oils, EP additives to form a film to prevent contact welding, detergents and dispersants to keep particulates in solution, emulsifiers, etc) of that oil back to their natural resources. You're left with a monstrous dependency chain. And no, you can't cut corners without cutting capabilities. Even if you could, just a pure petroleum or silicone oil has a huge dependency chain on a non-Earth planet. And no, you can't just substitute a vegetable oil. It works poorly. You can refine vegetable oils to produce lubricants -- say, polyol esters from soybean oil -- but it's still problematic (vegetable oils and products derived from them oxidize quickly and don't lubricate well and are not suitable for high stress situations).

            This is just one component of one device used in one aspect of maintaining a colony. Sci-fi presents far too rosy of a picture of how hard it is to establish even close to resource independence on another planet.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Tackhead (54550)
          > He's hardly alone in that view. The current plan for what to do with the ISS is bloody ridiculous: finish spending a fortune to get it built, and then not fund it for long past there. The components mostly have expected ~40 year lifespans (and judging by other craft, say the MERs, this is probably an underestimate), but once we finally get to the "cheap" part (maintenence of the station), we're just going to let it burn.

          Agreed, but the fundamental problem is that the "purpose" of a project like ISS d

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:24PM (#18096968)
    Its the only way to be sure.

  • I know I will get modded down for this, but, IMHO, the NASA of today is little more than a slush fund for big money contractors and a few researchers who can't get funding any other way. The Space Race-era of the big government space agency is over. A new era of private funding has begun. Russia has already realized this and begun to exploit it. In the U.S., we are still holding on to old baby boomer pipe-dreams of men on Mars and moonbases.

    The launch of SpaceShipOne should have been a wake-up call for th

    • by schnikies79 (788746) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:33PM (#18097084)
      Get back to me when SpaceShipOne can reach GEO or even LEO.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Tmack (593755)

        Get back to me when SpaceShipOne can reach GEO or even LEO.

        Its name is SpaceShipThree [wikipedia.org], and is on the drawing board... SpaceShipOne did what it was designed to do, go straight up 100miles, and come back. Asking it to reach LEO is like asking the wright flyer to cross the atlantic.

        Tm

        • Exactly, it's on the drawing board. As of now, NASA is the only US organization that can put people into orbit and will continue to be the only one for years to come.
          • NASA may not be putting people up there much longer. Shuttle is set to be retired in 2010 and there isn't a replacement even CLOSE to ready until 2012 or 2105. The older STS gets the more chances of another accident, and there are only two operational shuttles and there aren't are replacements for some parts (like main engines).

            I do agree that ISS isn't what it's supposed to be, but then again it's not completed so there is still hope.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by silentounce (1004459)

          SpaceShipOne did what it was designed to do, go straight up 100miles, and come back. Asking it to reach LEO is like asking the wright flyer to cross the atlantic.

          Tm

          Kilometers, not miles. Bit of a difference there. 100 mi is near LEO, 100km is barely halfway there. Honestly, it is an achievement, but there is a long way to go.
          • 100km is barely halfway there

            A common misconception. Space is a place, a destination. Orbit (LEO) is a velocity, without any reference to place. LEO is possible at 100km, but would be very short-lived.

            Quick reference from yarchive.net/space:

            Anything above 1000 km will stay up for 100+ years...

            At lower altitudes there's a nice set of rules of thumb...

            At 100km your orbit lasts about an hour.
            At 150km your orbit lasts about a day.
            At 200km your orbit lasts about a week.
            At 250km your orbit lasts about a month.
            • I based that comment on the wiki article which cited two different sources that stated 200km as the commonly accepted beginning of LEO. The definition in the referenced NASA document is: Low Earth orbit (LEO) - The region of space below the altitude of 2000 km. So, according to that NASA document. LEO can also be referenced as a place and not just a velocity. Let me explain it this way. If LEO is a velocity, then how is it different from just an orbit? Low-Earth must mean just that, the orbit occurs c
        • by Rei (128717)
          Yes, it's on the drawing board. So is JIMO. So is Medusa. So are tens if not hundreds of thousands of other spacecraft. It's not hard to get a spacecraft on the drawing board. It's hard to get it built and functional.

          Asking it to reach LEO is like asking the wright flyer to cross the atlantic.

          To elaborate on this, it's like someone in modern day building an overpriced Wright Flyer and then acting like they're one step from crossing the Atlantic and how such an Atlantic crossing will revolutionize and d
          • by Rei (128717)
            Come to think of it, depending on how detailed of specs you want to consider something "on the drawing board", hundeds of thousands may be too low. Heck, even I have a spacecraft "on the drawing board". "Black Kite" -- a tow-launch assisted (with midair fuelling from the tow craft using lines hooked up at launch to reduce loading on the landing gear) LOX/Propane craft with flometrics-style or reluctance-motor driven turbopumps, with self-contained-hydraulic or electric actuators with distributed power stor
        • by NitsujTPU (19263)
          Asking it to reach LEO is like asking the wright flyer to cross the atlantic.

          Not quite. The Wright brothers didn't have a lot of precedent when they designed their machine. SpaceShipOne, on the other hand, builds on quite a bit of experience. You can get a degree in aerospace engineering and learn all about how space vehicles fly.

          I'm not saying that there's no truth in what you're saying. SpaceShipOne wasn't designed to do that. I'm just saying that your analogy is imperfect. They could have built a d
        • by jeffmeden (135043)
          So we have what, 24 (1927-1903) years or so before there is a human put into LEO by a privately funded organization?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer (103300) *
      Expecting a goverment agancy to be the leader in something only lasts perhaps a decade or two, Then its success will increase the beurococy and make it heavy and more bothersom.

      Compaines do the same thing to, but they are allowed to go out of buisness, or do a major reorganization in an attempt to trim the fat. Unless governemt gets involved with the companies to make sure they stay alive then they are just as bad.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:35PM (#18097122) Homepage
      I know I will get modded down for this, but

      I know you're using the oldest karma whore trick in the book, but

      The launch of SpaceShipOne should have been a wake-up call for the U.S. The future is NOT in NASA.

      I agree that private funding is the future of space. I do see a role for NASA in the forseeable future at least for the pure research and exploration roles that they are currently doing a good job at. There's not much impetus to send a probe to Io just to see what the place looks like, unless you have a budget designed around ideas like that. Private interprise wouldn't see the ROI -- certainly not until gathering resources from another body becomes feasible, and even then they'd need some reason to think resources were there. However, for a space station or cheap flights to the moon, I'm looking at the private ventures.
      • That would put the NASA in the same scapegoat position many universities (over here, Europe) are in. They get to do the fundamental research, which rarely if ever yields anything that can be sold for money, while the applied research is done by private organisations, based on the findings of said universities, and they reap their harvest.

        It would pit NASA in the position where they are a constant loss making entity in the space business, with everyone leeching from them and making a very nice vehicle for fu
        • by Chris Burke (6130)
          I wasn't aware that NASA was making big bucks today. As far as I knew, it already was the case where NASA spent all the money, and private enterprise -- as in aerospace contractors -- reaped the harvest.

          It's basically the same with universities here as you describe across the pond. They are at the forefront of pure research, but it's the corporations that take the pure research ideas and apply it and make the cash. Sometimes the companies fund university research, sometimes it's the government that funds
      • by jafac (1449)
        I agree that private funding is the future of space.

        I disagree. There does not exist, an enterpreneur, or board of directors, or venture capitalist, who would take this kind of risk - this much money, for; well, the potential returns are really really huge. But the risk is very very high. For guys like you and me, with all the vision, and no money, well, of course it's a no-brainer. But for guys like, hell, even Bill Gates, I don't think they see this as a good investment. Today's crop of investors are
        • by Rakishi (759894)
          the potential returns are really really huge.

          such as? And I mean sane timetables, 50 years for any sort of decent return is not sane.
    • by Valar (167606)
      There is a role for both the private sector and the public sector in space, just like there is a role for the private sector and the public sector in all kinds of research.

      There are some kinds of research that will not be profitable to a corporation, but will have benefits outside of the market (a form of market externality [anyone who talks a lot about free market capitalism should be familiar with the term-- surprisingly few are]). For example, take the hubble space telescope. Despite all of the good post
    • I disagree. I mean do you really think that private enterprise is going to be able to recruit Bruce Willis AND mount the sort of two-shuttle nucular payload mission required to save us all from the killer asteroid? Naw, we still need NASA.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ChrisA90278 (905188)
      SpaceShipOne was just a low cost copy of what the US Air Force did in the 1950's. It only technically went into "space". It was just a ballistic trajectory, like if you shot a rifle into the sky. That is far from getting into orbit.

      As for using private industry to get into space, what do you think they do now? Who builds and launches all those rockets? It's all contracted.
      1. None of the privates have reached orbit. I think that in the next month that spacex will do so, but no guarentee.
      2. It is COTS and the possibility of cargo and passenger ferry to the ISS that is helping to drive these private enterprise. Only 2 companies won COTS and yet, 2 more have pushed for help from NASA and the possibility of getting work IFF they can make orbit.
      3. Where did Bigelow get the guts of his space hotel from? From NASA. Likewise, where do you suppose the first he will get the first few cont
      • "None of the privates have reached orbit."

        Yeah but there was this girl I once knew and baby, my privates were in heaven.
      • 1. None of the privates have reached orbit. I think that in the next month that spacex will do so, but no guarentee.

        Um, hello? Orbital Sciences? Pegasus?

        Just because they now are firmly with the government does not change the fact that they started private and "small". They started private, successfully launched Pegasus into LEO, and now do launches for the government.

        I basically agree with the rest, though.
    • So far the launch of SpaceShipOne was a non-event, and nothing but grandstanding. Now when the actualy start doing something profitable we may have something, but its still pretty much a .com; venture capital does not make for a successful enterprise. You want to see private industry making changes? try the Pegasus Launch Vehicle. Its been around for 17 years, http://www.orbital.com/SpaceLaunch/Pegasus/index. h tml [orbital.com] and hasn't put NASA out of business yet.

      As for big science failing, its a failing of cong

  • by ciaohound (118419) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:30PM (#18097036)
    They suck dollars from non-manned (i.e., robotic) missions whose focus IS actually collecting data for research. This is pretty well-known, but here's a recent news link that puts this into perspective -- NYTimes interview with NASA physicist Drew Shindell.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/magazine/18WWLNQ 4.t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine&oref=slogin [nytimes.com]

    Regarding manned missions: "It's fine to do it for national spirit or exploring the cosmos, but the problem is that it comes at the cost of observing and protecting our home planet."
    • There are a few things unmanned probes cannot do, or cannot do as well, as a manned mission. There are certain experiments that have to be done on site, with lots of variables you can't plan in advance. A robot can only react to a certain degree to changing situations, and as we've seen with the Mars rover, the signal delay becomes crippling even at the rather "small" distance to the next planet.
    • They suck dollars from non-manned (i.e., robotic) missions whose focus IS actually collecting data for research.

      Well, yes and no. The unmanned (science) side asked for large increases in their budget - and got smaller increases instead. So it's not 'precisely' sucking money from unmanned to manned.

      His statement about missions being cancelled is particularly disingenuous - because he fails to tell you that it's normal for more missions/instruments to be proposed/planned than actually fly. Having

  • Sunk Costs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@NosPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:30PM (#18097044) Homepage Journal
    Let me preface this by saying that I have the highest respect for Former Senator and Colonel John Glenn. He was a pioneering figure in a world where manned space travel was only the stuff of dreams. That being said, Former Senator Glenn needs to STFU before he blows another huge hole in the space program.

    The International Space Station was a bad idea from the get-go. It was placed in the wrong orbit, with the wrong components, and wrong plans for construction. It was a disaster from the moment it started, and was only conceived because Congress and NASA managed to twist a good plan for a moon-staging point into a useless abomination meant to symbolize international cooperation.

    While I'm the first to admit that it's rather cool having a space station flying over our heads, I also know that it's a turkey. Skylab was far more useful than the ISS ever was, and that was launched in a single launch on the back of a Saturn V. In comparison, the ISS has required over a dozen Shuttle flights for construction, and it's still not done yet. Worse yet, the Space Shuttle is required by the plan for the regular reboosts of the station back into a stable orbit. It's just not a good design.

    While I understand that Former Senator Glenn is upset that we're not seeing a return on the money we spent on the station, he needs to pay more attention to the economics of Sunk Costs [wikipedia.org]. The money is already spent, and there is little to be gained from investing more money into the station. All that would happen is that NASA would waste further taxpayer funds that would show little to no return.

    As a taxpayer myself, I would be extremely unhappy with NASA if they weren't diverting funds to the CEV program rather than the ISS. The development of the Ares V would provide NASA with far less expensive options for building and maintaining space stations. Options that would allow them to use such stations for useful ventures (like staging for moon missions) rather than mere symbolism.
  • Bah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ichigo 2.0 (900288)
    It doesn't matter how much or how little money the US spills in the ISS, it will never pay off. It's a pointless monument of pork, and should be scrapped. Any experiments it supposedly is needed for, could be performed on normal space flights and/or satellites. How about funding real science instead of this hogwash?
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      Precisely how is this a troll? Because the guy has a high ID#? The ISS is a sad joke that never should have been. It's expensive to maintain. They could have done much better by just not throwing away all those shuttle main tanks over the years, instead parking them at a lagrange point (it could be done very slowly, and the tanks could already have been taken to orbit) and then welding them together (or otherwise attaching them) into a gigantic ring or cylinder of cylinders. Then you could just send up stuf
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:32PM (#18097076) Homepage Journal
    Bush isn't the only President that has had to deal with the Space Station. If anything its doing just fine under him. The best thing he ever did for the space station was to drop the Shuttle as a delivery system. It should have been gone in his father's day.

    Diverting? How about focusing on something which grants us more opportunities. A space station is low earth orbit does not provide us with a stepping off platform that something more permanent, like a moon base, would. Besides being more difficult to shield from radiation, heat, and micrometeroites, we have to constantly push it back up. Worse, it is planned to come back within the lifetime of many of these other programs being put forward. In other words, unless we have a plan to keep it up permanently why throw money at it.

    Blaming Bush for the space station and state of NASA is really reaching. Don't even try that line that NASA would be better off if all the funds from Iraq didn't get spent as Congress never cares for NASA unless it can bash whomever is in the Adminstration at the time.

  • by SengirV (203400) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:35PM (#18097124)
    ... from a mile away. NASA follows up it's biggest boondoggle to date(the Space Shuttle), with the biggest boondoggle in it's history(the ISS). Both platforms should be scrapped at this point in favor of a truely long term "humans in space" approach. But that would require NASA/Congress to admit they made HUGE mistakes with these two projects, and we all know how likely that is to happen. So we'll jsut continue paying bllions for two POS projects that are killing the space program.
    • The Shuttle was designed, in part, to support a massive space station. Without the space station, Ol' Bricks 'n' Wings doesn't really matter.

      • by SengirV (203400)
        True, but the 300 mile up design requirement precluded this massive space station from playing any part in the next step of humanity in space. It's been a huge waste since day one.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      the biggest boondoggle in history is that piece of crap that was supposed to replace the space shuttle that cost billions and is sitting unfinished.

      the idiots chose something that was an idea only over the working prototype.

      THAT is their biggest boondoggle.
      • by SengirV (203400)
        Has it surpassed the Billions that have been thrown away on the Shuttle or ISS yet? If not, then I'd disagree.
  • STS-95 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I wonder if we got our money's worth when we sent him back into space on STS-95 so he could relive some former glory.
  • by flaming-opus (8186) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:37PM (#18097174)
    given the current state of the space shuttle fleet, and the known safety issues with the design, NASA has no choice but to design a successor spacecraft. The only question is what sort of a spacecraft should they design. Should the shuttle successor be a little transit-craft only useful for flying to the iss, or do they do something bold that can go out of low earth orbit? Nasa, at the urging of the president, and many others, decided to build a bold craft, which consequently costs a lot of money, and takes focus off of other things.

    Anytime nasa reprioritises money, something gets left behind. It's a careful balancing act of expense vs. return on that investment. There is still some science being done on iss, and will be more in the future. It's just not as much as origonally envisioned. How important is that? How do you prefer to weigh that against going to the moon and preparing to go to mars?

    Ideally, we do both, but that means taking money from defense, with which this president isn't likely to go along.
  • Oh no (Score:2, Funny)

    by BigHungryJoe (737554)
    Now we may never know if ants can be trained to sort tiny screws in space!
  • by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:42PM (#18097238)
    Last night I was capturing a camcorder video from a talk I went to by some astronauts, who were talking about how they were about to start building Space Station Freedom, and then President Bush had promised them a manned landing on Mars by 2019. Nearly fifteen years ago now.

    I just thought it was kind of funny that now we still haven't finished building the International Space Station and while the next President Bush has promised them a manned landing on Mars at some point in the distant future, it's looking less and less likely that even the new 'spam in a can' launcher will reach orbit by 2019, let alone that anyone will be going to Mars.

    At this rate, I guess NASA astronauts will be landing on Mars in the year 2300. At least private companies will already have hotels and crazy golf courses set up there for them so they won't need to build huge rockets to get there.
  • by DriveDog (822962) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @12:43PM (#18097242)
    to point. So Shrub is the anti-Midas. What's new? The ISS, shuttle, and Bush's manned mission plans all suck resources from important stuff like interplanetary probes, future propulsion research, and the next space-based telescope. But of course we could have them all for a fraction of the cost of throwing hardware and soldiers into a black hole in the middle east. NASA maybe mostly a welfare program for contractors, but it can't compete with the Pentagon. Does anything make sense? Perhaps a scary asteroid on a collision course with Earth would be the kick we need to build cool stuff and undertake important high-risk missions.
    • by Kjella (173770)
      Perhaps a scary asteroid on a collision course with Earth would be the kick we need to build cool stuff and undertake important high-risk missions.

      I sort of doubt that, we're centuries away from building a spaceship, space base or settlement that could survive completely without supplies from Earth, and it'd probably only raise interest in bomb shelters and anti-asteroid defense systems. Yes, we have tested closed biosystems so basic stuff like food and water could be recycled, but high-tech gear is another
  • The summary and the article are pretty misleading (here's a better article: http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/9806/1066/ [itwire.com.au]).

    What John Glenn is actually saying is that the ISS should be getting more money so that it can fulfill its purpose and reach its true potential. There's been no follow-up with Glenn, but I'd imagine what he's really saying is that instead of cutting the ISS's budget to pay for manned missions to the Moon and Mars, how about increasing NASA's budget so it can make the ISS successful and also go to the moon?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) *

      Instead of cutting the ISS's budget to pay for manned missions to the Moon and Mars, how about increasing NASA's budget so it can make the ISS successful and also go to the moon?

      Successful at what? That's what no one can seem to tell us. John Glenn says that's there's "potential". You say that it can be a success. Neither one of you is telling what exactly the station is supposed to be useful for?

      Anyone who looks carefully at the specs of the station realizes that it's not useful for anything. It can't act

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by 0123456 (636235)
        "If someone can give me even one good reason to keep the ISS, I'd run out there and help them rally for funding."

        ISS was built to funnel money to the Russians to discourage their rocket scientists from moving abroad to design missiles for people America doesn't like. I suspect that justification is a bit out of date now.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AKAImBatman (238306) *
          This is a joke, right? Let's see here:

          - Weightless Treadmill
          - Spacewalks for Leak Checks
          - Studying fires in zero gravity
          - 4 year old polymers
          - Testing of Dust Detectors
          - Taking pretty pictures of the Earth
          - Play with their Magic Rocks kit

          Yes, these are incredibly important experiments that we absolutely cannot do without the Space Station. (Can you hear the sound of my eyes rolling?)

          There is practically nothing at those links that couldn't be done by the Space Shuttle with the SpaceLab attachment, or by ded
      • by Rei (128717)
        Your "wrong orbit" comment makes no sense. Technically, any point can be a "staging point". It all depends on what is desired out of a staging point, and what craft you're planning to launch. Your comment about it not being high enough to service satellites also makes no sense. ISS is higher than some satellites, lower than others, and many are in very different orbits (such as polar, or even molniya). Its capabilities are very different from the Shuttle's Microgravity Science Laboratory, and besides,
    • by kabocox (199019)
      What John Glenn is actually saying is that the ISS should be getting more money so that it can fulfill its purpose and reach its true potential. There's been no follow-up with Glenn, but I'd imagine what he's really saying is that instead of cutting the ISS's budget to pay for manned missions to the Moon and Mars, how about increasing NASA's budget so it can make the ISS successful and also go to the moon?

      Nah, we need to cut NASA completely off. We need to give the department of energy the directive to buil
    • by argStyopa (232550)
      ...how about increasing NASA's budget so it can make the ISS successful and also go to the moon?

      I'm sure Senator Glenn would be all in favor, unless it happened to impact whatever pork-barrel project he's supported. Perhaps the "John Glenn Great Lakes Basin" project can be cut in favor of NASA?

      I'd love it if Senators really had blogs (instead of paid wonks to respond in their name on their forums). It might make our Democracy a little more responsive if the communication was TWO way.
  • You're not going to get money out of the ISS unless you've either got a low gravity mint up there, or are growing hydroponic money trees, both unlikely.
  • by Sigfried (779148) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @01:36PM (#18098020)
    The circular logic goes something like this:
    • The defacto purpose of the ISS is to justify the existence of the space shuttle.
    • The defacto purpose of the shuttle is to build the ISS, (and to give fidgety astronauts something to do with their hands).
    Science has nothing to do with it.

    When I first came to work at JPL in 1987, folks were already gearing up for what they called their "Third Annual Galileo Pre-Launch Picnic", to be held out in the nearby Oak Grove Park (which by the way, has one of the best frisbee golf courses on the planet--but I digress). It might have been the Fourth, but I lost count. Those who worked on the mission would joke about this, but you could always tell that there was some ironic bitterness in their voices. Galileo was neither the first nor the last of the victims of the politically-inspired space shuttle, but for many at the 'lab it became the iconic poster-child for the sacrifice that science has paid on the altar of politics and the almost religious cult of man-in-space hero worship.

    This Galileo Page [wikipedia.org] barely scratches the surface of the number of ways in which real scientists, engineers, and mathematicians had to wrack their brains trying to fix, work-around, and ultimately solve technical problems that arose on Galileo -- problems which were entirely avoidable, and were either directly or indirectly caused by the resources that were pulled from the unmanned science missions of JPL, Goddard, and the like.

    Galileo was originally supposed to be launched on an unmanned rocket like its esteemed predecessors Voyagers I and II, but JPL was forced to reconfigure the probe to be launched from the shuttle instead, again (like the IIS) to give some justification for building the shuttle. After the Challenger disaster, the cargo bay was redesigned and so again the probe had to be reconfigured. It has never been proved, but was suspected that the reason that the high-gain attenna "umbrella" jammed was due to the loss of lubricant over the many years of storage prior to its final launch. And so it went...

    About the only good thing that came out of the decision to launch Galileo from the shuttle was that it forced us to look at new data compression algorithms, so that we could store more data on the mag tape for later broadcast over the low-gain antenna. But, given the choice, I think the unanimous consensus was that if we had to do it all over again, we'd have told Johnson and Kennedy to stuff it, thank you very much, and we'll stick to our plans and launch the damn thing from a nice, reliable, unsexy but technologically sound unmanned rocket.

    I feel much better now.

  • NASA is and always has been about research, not exploitation of space resources. Anything NASA discovers that can benefit a consumer economy/industry should be passed down to private companies that can take full advantage of the discovery.
  • by DrLudicrous (607375) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @02:12PM (#18098638) Homepage
    I was at this talk yesterday morning, front row, about 20 or 25 feet from Senator Glenn. The man is as sharp now as he was 45 years ago- completely aware of the world around him, even more so than many younger people. Senator Glenn spoke of his Friendship 7 orbit for about an hour, and in the last 30 minutes or so took questions from the audience.

    The ISS was discussed in the course of this Q&A. It came about because someone had asked what Senator Glenn thought about the future of spaceflight. Glenn mentioned President Bush's plans for manned voyages to the Moon and Mars, but how there was no funding created for this purpose. Instead, funds were being diverted from other NASA projects, usually research dollars. This was reminiscent of what happened to the ISS, which repeatedly was improperly funding, causing both self-cannibalization of NASA funds and a reduction in the research potential of the ISS. To paraphrase Glenn, currently, there are only two people up there who are tending to systems [maintainence]. The original station design called for six inhabitants and a rigorous course of experimentation.

    So Glenn used the mediocrity of the ISS as a potential warning for what can happen to the Moon/Mars initiative if it is not properly funded by Congress, and is instead forces NASA to shift money around internally. IMO, the AP article doesn't really put Glenn's comments in context enough that one can see the point he was trying to make.
  • Duh. ISS has been a disaster from day one and should have never been built, at least once it was watered down from Regean's original vision (where it was a stepping stone to human exploration of the solar system). NASA shouldn't be about ISS, but about exploring. Exploring circles around Earth is quite wasteful and could just as likely be done by the private sector. Hell, at least, they'd be able to do something with the resulting products.
  • by tsa (15680) on Wednesday February 21, 2007 @03:02PM (#18099378) Homepage
    In this poor excuse of an article John Glenn's opinion about the ISS is quoted without any facts to back him up or disprove hime. Of course Glenn is a big name, but just citing an opinion and calling it 'news' is stretching it a bit too far IMO. There's next to nothing of value in this 'article' whatsoever.

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