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Space Science

The ISS Marks 10 Years In Space 153

Posted by kdawson
from the first-steps-to-a-spacefaring-civilization dept.
Matt_dk writes to point out the upcoming tenth anniversary of the International Space Station in two days' time. "On 20 November 1998, a Russian Proton rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome for a historic mission: It was carrying the first module of the International Space Station ISS, named Zarya (Russian for 'dawn'). This cargo and control module, which weighs about 20 tonnes and is almost 13 meters long, provides electrical power, propulsion, flight path guidance and storage space. The launch of the module... heralded a new era in space exploration, as, for the first time ever, lasting cooperation in space was achieved between Russia, the US, Europe, Canada and Japan. Over the next ten years, many other modules were brought into orbit, and ISS developed into the largest human outpost in space. Since that time, the building blocks, transported by Russian launch vehicles or the US Space Shuttle, have expanded the ISS to the size of a soccer pitch and a current total mass of about 300 tons."
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The ISS Marks 10 Years In Space

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  • Pee (Score:3, Funny)

    by Corpuscavernosa (996139) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:23PM (#25807403)
    Based on yesterday's story, am I correct in assuming they had 10 years of NOT having to drink recycled pee?
    • Re:Pee (Score:5, Insightful)

      by symes (835608) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:27PM (#25807489) Journal
      We all drink recycled pee - there's only so much water on this planet and, according to some estimates, most of it has been drunk eight times already. So unless they were drinking outer space water, rather than earth water, they most certainly were drinking recycled pee for the past ten years.
      • Re:Pee (Score:5, Funny)

        by snspdaarf (1314399) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:36PM (#25807631)

        Water, the refreshing beverage that rusts pipes, and fish fuck in!

        Makes recycled pee seem tame by comparison.

      • Re:Pee (Score:4, Funny)

        by genner (694963) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:36PM (#25807633)

        We all drink recycled pee - there's only so much water on this planet and, according to some estimates, most of it has been drunk eight times already. So unless they were drinking outer space water, rather than earth water, they most certainly were drinking recycled pee for the past ten years.

        Our destiny is clear we must mine Haleys Comet for water.

        • by Kamokazi (1080091)

          I think I heard that Evian was developing a Martian rover capable of bottling ice from the icecaps.

          And you thought $3/bottle was expensive.....

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ctetc007 (875050)
        Actually, they were drinking by-products of the Space Shuttle fuel cells. The hydrogen and oxygen in those fuel cells didn't necessarily come from water, and even if the reactants did come from water, can we really call it recycled water/pee if it was broken down and then reconstituted at the molecular level? It would be the same if you took a part a house brick by brick and rebuilt it somewhere else. I don't think I'd say I was living in a recycled house.
      • by Fumus (1258966)
        Water? You mean, like, from the toilet?
  • I was under the impression that in (post-)Soviet Russia, Proton rocket carriers YOU to space as the first module of the ISS.
    • by Kagura (843695)
      So in (post-)Soviet Russia, noun nouns YOU? I think you mixed up the formula there, bub! ;)
  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:30PM (#25807527) Homepage Journal

    weighs about 20 tonnes

    I assume you mean it weights about 196kN. On Earth. At sea level.

    How much does it weigh in space?

    • by CensorshipDonkey (1108755) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:37PM (#25807653)
      Newton is a measurement of force, and therefore weight, not mass, as you point out. However, pounds are ALSO a unit of force, not mass, and therefore tons (2,000 pounds) is weight. I think your pedantry is wrong, you've merely converted from Imperial weight/force to metric weight/force.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by camperdave (969942)
        A pound is both a unit of force and a unit of mass. As a unit of mass it is 0.45359237 kilogram by definition. As a force, a pound is defined as 0.45359237 kg × 9.80665 m/s^2 = 4.4482216152605 N (exactly)

        Typically though, the word pound refers to force, and the pound mass is sometimes referred to as a slug.
        • by mosb1000 (710161)

          A slug is 32.2 lbm. (the acceleration due to gravity at the earth's surface is approximately 32.2ft/s2)

          • You're right. Bizarre variants of metric units like pounds, slugs, feet, inches, etc. are too awkward. You should join the civilized world and use the decimalized units. A pound of feathers is heavier than a pound of gold? Ridiculous!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      About 85% of what it weighs on earth depending on altitude. You aren't weightless in space, you essentially experience continual freefall.

      • Huh? How did this get modded insightful? It is completely wrong. There is this thing called the Equivalence Principle, that is one of the axioms of Einsteinian Gravity. It says, among other things, that a body in freefall has no net force acting upon it, and therefore has zero weight.

        If objects at the ISS really did have a weight of 85% of what they weigh on the surface of the Earth, where do you think they got all those bits of news footage of people and things floating around in the cabin?

        • There is this thing called the Equivalence Principle, that is one of the axioms of Einsteinian Gravity. It says, among other things, that a body in freefall has no net force acting upon it, and therefore has zero weight.

          Well, no.

          If there were no net force acting on the ISS, it would not orbit the Earth. Gravity at its altitude is still around 90% of surface gravity, so it still weighs about 90% of what it would weigh on the ground.

          • Instead of embarrasing yourself with another mis-statement, why not just read wikipedia [wikipedia.org], for example?

            If there was a net force on the ISS, then it would not remain in a steady orbit!

            • If there was a net force on the ISS, then it would not remain in a steady orbit!

              I take it you don't count gravity as a "force" where you come from?

              Without gravity applying a "force" to the ISS, it would move in what is commonly known as a "straight line".

              Which would not allow for a steady orbit. Steady orbits are generally described by "ellipses", not "straight lines".

              Perhaps what you are struggling toward is the notion that a "net force" must be one that perturbs an orbit? If so, then you're mistaken

              • by IWannaBeAnAC (653701) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @09:59PM (#25811521)

                I take it you don't count gravity as a "force" where you come from?

                Ahh, this is where relativity and the equivalence principle come in. According to the equivalence principle, there is no experiment that you can do on the ISS that can distinguish whether it is currently in orbit around the Earth, or instead in deep space (not anywhere near any significant masses), or any other variant of 'free fall'. Well, obviously you can look out the window, but that is not what I mean: you cannot determine the force on you due to gravity by doing any kind of experiment with masses etc. (This experiment is easy to do on the surface of the earth, you just need a set of scales!).

                Without gravity applying a "force" to the ISS, it would move in what is commonly known as a "straight line".

                Yeah true, that is entirely correct in the Newtownian view. But an entirely equivalent way of viewing the motion of the ISS is that it is moving 'straight', but the spacetime surrounding the Earth is curved. This view is easier to grasp if you imagine actually being on the ISS - from this point of view (which is an accelerating reference frame, in Newton's picture), there is no net force acting on it. That is, there is no experiment that you can do to measure the local strength of Earth's gravity.

                Another example of motion (acceleration) being equivalent to gravity: Suppose I applied a force to you by putting you in a car and accelerating very quickly down the freeway, you would feel the forces acting upon you. If you attempted to measure the force of gravity at the same time (for example, by using a set of scales, or an accelerometer) there is no way you can distinguish whether I am accelerating you down the freeway, or if you are actually stationary but have been suddenly transported to another planet where the gravity is stronger. This is the Equivalence Principle (I am too lazy to put in the wikipedia link, but the article is reasonably accurate and worth reading).

                In orbit, the acceleration of the motion precisely cancels out with the force due to gravity. The net force experienced by the astronauts is zero and they are weightless. The equivalence principle states that this situation is precisely equivalent to being in empty space with no gravitational masses anywhere nearby in the sense that it is not possible to distinguish these cases by measuring the local gravitational field. In both cases, it is zero. Similarly, it is impossible to distinguish, by measuring the local gravitational field, between the two cases of (1) a stationary object on the Earth, experiencing a weight of mass*9.81m/s^2, and (2) a rocket ship in free space with the engines on and accelerating at 9.81m/s^2. In both situations, you have the same mass and any experiment you do to measure the strength of the local gravitational field will give the same reading. [*]

                [*] Actually, you can tell, but it is very subtle: on the Earth, the gravitational force is towards the center of the earth, so of you move slightly to the left the direction of the gravitational force changes slightly. But in an accelerating rocket, the force is uniform. These are called 'tidal forces', and with a careful experiment you could measure it. You would see this, for example, in an elevator that is accelerating downwards at exactly the rate of the acceleration due to gravity (so that objects in the elevator were weightless and floating around), and you placed two objects some distance apart, the tidal forces would tend to push them together. This is because they are both accelerating towards the center of the earth, rather than straight down. It is easier if you imagine doing this experiment on a very small and very heavy asteroid. If you put an elevator nearby to the asteroid, and draw lines of force radiating outwards from the center of the asteroid, the lines of force that pass through the elevator are not quite parallel.

                • In both situations, you have the same mass and any experiment you do to measure the strength of the local gravitational field will give the same reading.

                  Oops, I meant to say, in both situations, you have the same weight. Obviously, the mass is the same too, but the weight is the important one.

    • by cowscows (103644)

      The weight on earth is actually more interesting and important than what it weighs in space. Every ounce of the ISS started here on earth and had to be pushed up into space. That's the trickiest part of this whole thing.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:30PM (#25807537)

    I'm a big space geek, don't get me wrong. I'm all for space stuff. But I'm horrified when I look at the price tags on these projects. Should they really cost this much? Are we sure that there isn't a lot of contractor pocket-lining going on? It seems to me like we're using a lawn sprinkler to fill up a dixie cup. Yeah, it'll get the job done but it'll take about ten gallons of water to put five ounces in the cup.

    If I seem disappointed and ungrateful it's just that putting rinky dink modular stations in orbit is 1970's technology. We should have moon colonies right now using mass drivers to fire off raw materials to the lagrange points where we'd be building giant wheel and cylinder habitats.

    Looking at our space program, it's like going back home and seeing the people you went to school with who peaked in high school and are hanging around the old haunts just looking underachieving and pathetic. I mean yeah, it's cool to point and laugh if these were the people you hated in high school but if they were your friends, it's just very sad. NASA peaked as Apollo and has been underachieving ever since.

    • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:42PM (#25807727)

      The standard estimated total cost of the ISS (difficult to measure precisely given the multinational aspect) is between $50 billion and $100 billion. Over 10 years.

      In comparison, the US military budget for 2009 is $711 billion. $10 billion is spent a month in Iraq alone. total estimated cost of that war so far over 6 years? $660 billion, and that's just US costs.

      Going into space for long periods safely, or as safely as is practicable anyway, is very, very hard. I'm not saying the ISS is cheap, but it's not bad in the grand scheme of things.

      • by savuporo (658486) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:56PM (#25807971)
        I'm not saying the ISS is cheap, but it's not bad in the grand scheme of things.
        Whether its bad or not can only be measured against the results it has delivered for the money or will deliver. Can you outline those in a concise manner for us ?
      • by Macrat (638047)
        And the Apollo program was shut down due to all the funding going into dropping bombs in Vietnam.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by LandDolphin (1202876)
        $1 is $1.

        Relating it to other, more expensive, projects does not make it any less exppensive or justified. It just shows how we spend/waste money in other ways.
      • On the flip side, robotic exploration of the solar system (Mars rovers, Cassini orbiter, Pluto flyby, etc.) runs around $2 billion/year. It's likely that were ISS not hoovering up money, at least some of that $50-$100 billion would have gone to the robotic exploration (especially since cost overruns in one place tend to tie up funds from other places). Even a small fraction of that money could have greatly enhanced our exploration. So while I agree that ISS is cheap compared to the DoD, it's still a ton

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      "Looking at our space program, it's like going back home and seeing the people you went to school with who peaked in high school and are hanging around the old haunts just looking underachieving and pathetic. I mean yeah, it's cool to point and laugh"

      I thought I saw you by the old gym the other day. It wasn't nice of you to point and laugh at me.

    • by AsnFkr (545033) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:54PM (#25807955) Homepage Journal
      NASA peaked as Apollo and has been underachieving ever since.

      I agree with you (for the most part) on this statement relating to manned space exploration, but NASA has had much success in robotic space exploration in the past 40 years that should not be ignored.
    • NASA peaked as Apollo and has been underachieving ever since.

      I see that line of thinking as somewhat skewed. We went to the moon, what was left to do? Mars? Not with 1975 tech. I just don't see that being feasible. Sure, we sidetracked ourselves in terms of long distance exploration with the Shuttle, but does the communications revolution that has taken place since the mid 70's happen without NASA trucking up the school-bus sized satellites of the late 70s and early 80's? Sure you can throw those up with rockets, but the shuttle doesn't do a *bad* job of moving big-ass cargo into space.

      NASA gets hounded because countries like India and China are now doing things like sending probes to the moon in India's case, and manned spacewalks in China's case. While those are great accomplishments, we were doing those things with slide rules and navigation computers that has 4k of memory and a few hundred lines of code.

      China and India pulling off these "stunning accomplishments" while standing firmly on the shoulders of giants. They're booking plane tickets to Cleveland online and being treated like true aviation pioneers, and NASA is being told "What have you done lately Orville and Wilbur? That stupid little biplane thingie? who cares about that anymore. You guys suck."

      Where are the Japanese Mars rovers? Where is the Indian Space agency's ISS module? Gosh, it's awfully nice that India has managed to bounce a glorified digital camera off of the moon. That's awesome. Maybe NASA can budget for something cool like that once they're done with that whole "New Horizons" probe that's on its way to Pluto.

      Yeah, there are a ton of bureaucratic nightmares in the NASA that weigh down our successes. Mind blowing awesomeness gets shouted down because someone forgot to do a metric-imperial conversion. But NASA is helping *private industry* do things that other nations space programs are trying to get a handle on. (X-prize anyone?)

      NASA isn't hanging around the high school parking lot. They're the kid that's easy to pick on because he moved out of town and got his masters degree....while the rest of the world is still talking about how cool it has to have a diploma. We don't have a perfect space agency, but in the face of a red-tape, agenda driven, too-screwed-up-to-be-a-dilbert-cartoon middle management nightmare, we are still doing things that no other space agency in the world is doing. The only group that is even close is a consortium of TEN other nations.

      Explain to me again why that isn't cool?

      • I see that line of thinking as somewhat skewed. We went to the moon, what was left to do? Mars? Not with 1975 tech. I just don't see that being feasible. Sure, we sidetracked ourselves in terms of long distance exploration with the Shuttle, but does the communications revolution that has taken place since the mid 70's happen without NASA trucking up the school-bus sized satellites of the late 70s and early 80's? Sure you can throw those up with rockets, but the shuttle doesn't do a *bad* job of moving big-ass cargo into space.

        What's left to do? Here's some short-term ideas, many cribbed from The High Frontier.

        1. Build a proper big dumb booster, something that can throw a ridiculous amount of cargo into space. Don't care whether or not its reusable, just make it cheap. We can send the crew on a separate vehicle since man-rating rockets is so expensive.

        2. Lunar colony for science and resource extraction. We can get a lot of usable construction material from the moon and thus reduce the amount of mass that needs to be sent up from

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Darth_brooks (180756)

          What's left to do? Here's some short-term ideas, many cribbed from The High Frontier.

          It's not "what is left..." it's "what was left..." NASA probably went in a bad direction with the shuttles, but we still kept plugging forward.

          NASA has gone a lot farther than they get credit for, and to compare the accomplishments of nations today to what NASA (and the USSR. We spent a great deal of time just trying to catch them.) did literally 40 years ago is almost insulting.

        • by Hucko (998827)

          on point 4, shouldn't we(err NASA) try to grab Apophis when it does come close in 2029? Make it the next ISS?

      • by lennier (44736)

        "but in the face of a red-tape, agenda driven"

        Hold it right there. George Orwell language moment.

        I wish people would stop using the word 'agenda' as a generic insult meaning something like 'corrupt'.

        EVERY organisation is -- or should be -- agenda driven! That's the whole point of existing: to have a carefully laid out plan to do stuff! Think about what you're saying! You want organisations which exist for no reason? In the 1960s, NASA was *very* agenda-driven! The agenda was to LAND MEN ON THE MOON. And the

    • by carambola5 (456983) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @05:34PM (#25808577) Homepage

      As one who has formerly worked on NASA contracts (and hopes to continue to do so in the future... just because it's so damn cool), I can assure you of two things:

      -You are right, and
      -You are wrong.

      You are right in that there is some fat that could be skimmed from the process; there is some highly skilled labor that sits idly as projects continue onward.

      You are wrong, however, to assume that space technology is getting cheaper by the minute, and the industry should be able to continue along at the same speed as... say, consumer electronics. Designing for space is crazy-expensive.... ridiculously expensive... and the problem isn't NASA or its subcontractors. It's the vendors.

      NASA and its subcontractors make stuff. We either design it from scratch (frequently), update an off-the-shelf item (sometimes), or just use an off-the-shelf item unmodified (rarely).

      Designing from scratch costs the most in terms of high- and low-skilled labor (think engineers and mill operators) and material. It's also the most frequent due to the many requirements of spaceflight: radiation hardened, extremely light weight, strict volume requirements, high vibration launch environment, low outgassing, low flammability, etc.

      Updating an off-the-shelf part is a little easier, but it still involves plenty of engineer time. In addition, the original part is usually on the extreme high-end of a vendor's offering. We can't have a coolant pump that has an MTBF of 2 years. It's gotta be 10. or more.

      And finally, even if an off-the-shelf part is used by itself, it still needs brackets and an electrical interface (if necessary). Plus there's plenty of engineer time spent just to be sure that it's flight-worthy.

      And finally, multiply all of these costs by the factor of not mass-producing this stuff. When you order only 5 specialized valves, the unit cost is going to balloon.

      So, jollyreaper, I applaud your space geekiness. There are many like us. But designing and building for space is hard. And it costs a lot. Them's the facts.

      Now, if we (the space industry as a whole) got a three-fold increase in funding... you'd really start to see some sweet stuff.

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        But designing and building for space is hard. And it costs a lot. Them's the facts.

        In that case, why is it that SpaceX [wikipedia.org] is able to do things so much more cost-effectively than NASA and its prime contractors?

    • Should they really cost this much? Are we sure that there isn't a lot of contractor pocket-lining going on? It seems to me like we're using a lawn sprinkler to fill up a dixie cup. Yeah, it'll get the job done but it'll take about ten gallons of water to put five ounces in the cup.

      Well you're designing and building highly complicated one use projects. Things are cheap in the modern age because once you create one you can sell a million. For space technology you can't spread out that R&D cost. You al

      • "For space technology you can't spread out that R&D cost."

        Oh yes, you can [thespaceplace.com]. Perhaps not everything can be reused, but I certainly would not dismiss those things that can be reused, patented, licensed, manufactured, and sold here on Earth.

        • Oh yes, you can. Perhaps not everything can be reused, but I certainly would not dismiss those things that can be reused, patented, licensed, manufactured, and sold here on Earth.

          NASA is in the business of developing space exploration not profit. In fact one of their goals is to "Encourage the pursuit of appropriate partnerships with the emerging commercial space sector," which would place them in a position to not seek huge sums of money for licensing technology. The NASA balance sheet doesn't even menti

  • by sexconker (1179573) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:31PM (#25807549)

    Space marks 10 years with ISS!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As is usually the case, the US has footed over 75% of the bill.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's true, but at the same time, the US has the most control over its utilization. Other contributors like the ESA are lucky to fly one astronaut every other year. Russia generally has at least one up, because they contributed two of the backbone modules, a significant amount of the resupply missions, and the Soyuz that is required to be kept docked for emergency evacuation.
    • by j-cloth (862412)
      ...and taken 90% of the credit.
  • ...other than Planet Earth, right? And, how many other human outposts in space are there?

    Who writes this stuff?

    • by Itchyeyes (908311)

      The statement could be read to be inclusive of retired outposts like MIR and Skylab, in which case it would be correct.

  • by Jason1729 (561790) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:43PM (#25807745)
    How long is a soccer pitch? Why is it so hard to just give a size in meters?

    And just how many elephants is 300 tons? ;)
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Football_pitch_metric.svg [wikipedia.org]

      How hard is it to use Google? If I tell you that the ISS is about 100 meters long and half that wide, does that give you a good feeling for it's size? If you've ever been to a soccer game (which most people on the planet have), then the comparison gives you a mental picture. To translate into Imperial, think football field.

      • by Jason1729 (561790)
        The point wasn't to use google to look it up. It was to point out how silly the wording was in the summary.

        You're new to slashdot, aren't you?
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Not nearly as new as you are.

          Did you read the second half of my post? Saying "soccer pitch" is a neat comparsion for the vast majority of people to whom 100 m x 40 m means nothing. It's not silly.

    • How long is a soccer pitch?

      It's about the length of a football field, including the endzones.

      And just how many elephants is 300 tons?

      I don't know how many elephants, but it's around 380 stripped honda civics.

    • More importantly, who the hell says "soccer pitch"? Americans say "soccer field." Brits say "football pitch." No one says "soccer pitch."

      Sounds like the writer was a Brit who tried to put it in Americanese but failed.

    • by owlnation (858981)

      And just how many elephants is 300 tons?

      I don't know how many elephants, but I do know that the number that makes up 300 tons has tripled in the past six months.

    • by Deadstick (535032)
      How long is a soccer pitch?

      29.5 to 39.4 stories.

      rj

  • by savuporo (658486) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:54PM (#25807935)
    So for these several tens of billions sunk, and the "World class science facility" still not being really operational, what does it have to show for this cash and ten years ?
    How much technology advancement really has happened and what scientific goals have been accomplished ?

    There has been some [nasa.gov] useful stuff, but wouldnt it be nice to see it all these shortly summarized in a table with the bottomline dollar drawn under it ?
    • The true, insidious purpose of the space station has yet to reveal itself. It's up there to allow for a new unit of measurement. Even with tons, tonnes, elephants, library of congresses, football fields, million millions, we don't have a good cubic-meter measurement yet. So we'll use the obvious choice, (how many xxx can fit into a car?)

      We stuff clowns into cars to see how many cubic feet they can reasonably allow. The reason the US, Russia, Japan, and all our other friends are collaborating on this p
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by BlowHole666 (1152399)

        The true, insidious purpose of the space station has yet to reveal itself. It's up there to allow for a new unit of measurement. Even with tons, tonnes, elephants, library of congresses, football fields, million millions, we don't have a good cubic-meter measurement yet. So we'll use the obvious choice, (how many xxx can fit into a car?) We stuff clowns into cars to see how many cubic feet they can reasonably allow. The reason the US, Russia, Japan, and all our other friends are collaborating on this project is to get all of our clowns up there, stuffed into the space station, to see how many can fit, and this will be our new standard of measurement for cubic space. Then, once we've tallied how many tens of thousands of clowns can fit into the space station, we launch it into the sun. I'd like to see anyone disagree that all the money has been ill-spent on this endeavor.

        By clowns you mean lawyers right?

    • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @05:41PM (#25808685)

      How much technology advancement really has happened and what scientific goals have been accomplished ?

      That was all cut to save money. Sadly I'm not kidding. There is a short list here of scientific modules launched. Plenty more were budget cut or just simply won't be launched. The original plan had a hotel load around 2 people, which was fine since there would be like two dozen folks up there (hotel load is how much it takes to keep the place running and human habitable, from navy and submarine terminology). The problem is the life support equipment and "space lifeboat" never was launched, crew endlessly downsized, etc. So, since it only holds about 3 people on a regular basis, and the hotel load is always larger than originally planned, there isn't much time to do anything other than be space janitors / space superintendents. If they could have a staff of 20 up there as originally intended then quite a bit could have been done, but thats not happening.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station#Scientific_ISS_modules [wikipedia.org]

      Part of the problem, as described below, is the only purpose of the shuttle, is to visit the station, and the only purpose of the station, is to be visited by the shuttle. So, since the station has already been downsized to the point of uselessness, and the shuttle is going away, guess what will happen to the station in just a few years?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station#Future_of_the_ISS [wikipedia.org]

      Another part of the problem is the ISS was project managed as a one-time project or one-time stunt. Anyone who's ever spent time in a lab, in the military, or even in front of a computer, knows the original plan is obsolete as soon as it's written. Thats OK, invent a new plan. Except everything relating to ISS project management is a one time stunt. It's a permanent beta releast version 0.99 with no possibility of upgrade. There is no ability to do science if you can't iteratively experiment and try new ideas. And that's not how the ISS was project managed. Therefore it doesn't do science. It's a one time stunt and the stunt is about over.

      Too bad, it could have been useful.

      • Too bad, it could have been useful.

        Even if all of the original scientific goals and plans for the ISS had been achieved, which would have been very ambitious indeed, it would still be an inefficient and wasteful expenditure of limited scientific and research and develop funds compared to alternative scientific uses. I am not personally qualified to decide what precisely would be the best combination of alternative uses of those monies, but neither is any other individual currently living on this planet. However, I am reasonably certain that

      • This seems kind of redundant. What I am saying is this. Lets say I want to build an electric car that gets 1000 miles to a charge, but to reduce costs I have to use an existing chassis. Well it turns out that in order to build this car and get 1000 mpc I will have to use the entire cabin to store the batteries. Suddenly someone should say if it can no longer be what it was intended to be, but now it exists solely to support itself why build it at all?

        It seems as though redundant isn't the right word. Their

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Revolver4ever (860659)
      How about the experience we now have in getting stuff into space and keeping it there! This is not easy!!! Just think of how many mistakes and subsequent successes had to take place to get the ISS up there and running. Now think that all these mistakes and successes will be directly used when we go forward in exploring beyond our orbit with bigger stations and spacecraft carrying humans towards Mars and beyond. The ISS is anything but useful. You must first crawl before you run? And so on.
      • by savuporo (658486)
        I admire your breathless optimism, but i must point out that we learned how to get stuff to space on 4th of October, 1957, we put our first crewed space station up and kept it there in 1973 and believe it or not, twelve men have walked and ran around on moon, rather than crawled.
        The ISS is anything but useful indeed.

        Now, go read some history books, learn a bit about what is actually being done in space today and then come back with even just one accomplishment on ISS that would be even remotely worth th
        • Please qualify "We". In this case "We" means the US. The Soviets launched Salyut 1 in 1971.

          The Soyuz 11 depressurization incident was upon departure from Salyut 1.

      • by vlm (69642)

        How about the experience we now have in getting stuff into space and keeping it there! This is not easy!!!

        No, it is easy. Used commodity launchers/boosters to get the ISS up there, same as launch unmanned satellites. Just tossed up there like any other satellite. Did not develop any new launchers for the ISS. In fact we're getting rid of the primary launcher, the shuttle.

        Now think that all these mistakes and successes will be directly used

        No, that does not make money for contractors and no-invented-here is very popular in aerospace environments. Most certainly nothing will ever be re-used. The shuttle is not a saturn-V with wings, etc.

        will be directly used when we go forward in exploring beyond our orbit with bigger stations and spacecraft carrying humans towards Mars and beyond

        No need for another station. Classic

    • So for these several tens of billions sunk, and the "World class science facility" still not being really operational

      Looked at the budget and construction time for the LHC recently? You know the one, it's down for six months and $21 million dollars because of the failure of a minor part. Facilities like this, even without the narrow logistics pipeline of rockets take a long time and a lot of money to build - they aren't ordered off of the shelf.

      what does it have to show for this cash and t

    • Just like those physicists a hundred years ago who started to understand the atom and Quantum physics. All that money for their experements and for what after a decade some abstract books that no one can understand...

      Then you look hundred years in the future where the manufacturing process is so small these Quantum Physics principals are coming to play. Science isn't Engineering, Unlike popular media Scientist don't create these cool things in the world. It is the Engineers who use the laws learned from t

  • by nacnud75 (963443) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @05:19PM (#25808325)
    Well a lot of the cost is the inefficient nature of the Shuttle launch system. Every launch of the shuttle puts 110 tonnes in orbit, but around 90% of that is the shuttle itself. Rather than 10s of launches the ISS could have been put up with a handful of NLS [astronautix.com] launches freeing the shuttle for what it does best, servicing a space station and bringing samples back.
    • is it a moon?
      Thats no moon! Its a space station!!

      To think, if we changed launch vehicles for payloads, we could have our very own deathstar by now!

      tm

    • Which would have resulted in a station even more expensive - as the cost of developing the launch vehicle, building the infrastructure to support it, and finally operating it would have been amortized over a very small number of launches.
       
      There's a reason why heavy lift systems keep being studied and abandoned.

  • Given that space is so vast, saying that humanity has been there 10 years is misleading, at best.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. -- John Muir

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