Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space NASA Science

ESA Wants ISS Extended To 2020 88

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the buy-two-at-twice-the-price dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that the European Space Agency's (ESA) Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain says that uncertainty is undermining the best use of the ISS and that only guaranteeing the ISS's longevity would cause more scientists to come forward to run experiments on the orbiting laboratory. 'I am convinced that stopping the station in 2015 would be a mistake because we cannot attract the best scientists if we are telling them today "you are welcome on the space station but you'd better be quick because in 2015 we close the shop,'' says Dordain. One of the biggest issues holding up an agreement on station-life extension is the human spaceflight review ordered by US President Barack Obama and the future of US participation in the ISS is intimately tied to the outcome of that review. Dordain says that no one partner in the ISS project could unilaterally call an end to the platform and that a meeting would be held in Japan later in the year where he hoped the partners could get some clarity going forward."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

ESA Wants ISS Extended To 2020

Comments Filter:
  • by mmcxii (1707574) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:21PM (#30785544)
    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is all Obama and I am an American but... to think that just because one nation wants to let their science programs slip even more doesn't mean that anyone should pull the plug on anything.

    I fully support the efforts of any nation to keep the science going.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hey, if the ESA is willing to pay for the maintenance, then I say keep it up there.

      Why is the US government in the science business? We give zillions of dollars in funding to all sorts of labs and universities, and when they finally discover something, it gets patented and sold back to us for more zillions of dollars. [cough-cough] pharmaceuticals [/cough-cough]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by icebike (68054)

        True the US pays the lion share of the bill, and the Russians control Access. Gaak! how did that happen?

        Governments have to be in the science business, if for no other reason than some projects require commitments larger than corporations can make, and time spans greater than the lives of individuals. These are planetary scale projects, tasks undertaken by/for the entire planet. I'm not aware of any organization other than Governments available to the task.

        But nasa has been very good at sharing their inv

        • by Teancum (67324)

          True the US pays the lion share of the bill, and the Russians control Access. Gaak! how did that happen?

          NASA had to give up something when they forced MIR to be deorbited. Giving the Russians the ability to control access to and from the station was one of the things they gave up in the glorious compromise that is the ISS.

          As far as how effective NASA is at dealing with these major large scale projects, I have my doubts about the effectiveness of NASA. They do a good job at very basic R&D, including pure science for the sake of science and the quest for knowledge in general. When it comes to rehashing s

      • by mdwh2 (535323)

        Do you have an example of a Government funded project that was privately patented? (Usually it's private companies we hear about.)

    • by wizardforce (1005805) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:42PM (#30785764) Journal

      Most of the funding that allows the ISS to continue comes from the US. What concerns me is whether or not the other space agencies have the funding to pick up where NASA left off and continue the research there. In any case, the station is far too yound to just be abandoned and it would be a shame if that were to come to pass because of the US's decision to withdraw support from the station in 2015.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Though if ESA members want the extension to happen, they should be fully prepared for associated costs (perhaps Russia too - it pushes away the need for their next, already planned, space station; conserving funds)

        Renting one module for reality show might help... ;)

      • I'm sort of puzzled: What sort of costs are associated with continued operations on the ISS?

        Building the thing in the first place was certainly incredibly expensive, and things like the electrical generation capacity of that vehicle is amazing for doing all sorts of test... space solar power tests just to give an example. It certainly is the equivalent of a small municipal power generation facility in terms of the watts generated. How much has been suggested to be spent on just that one idea alone, that is already in operation and in space?

        The only real expenses that I see are maneuvering thruster fuel, food and other general consumables, and of course the ground support stations and centers. The ESA has even addressed this particular issue, and questioned some of the incredibly wasteful spending just to accomplish this task alone that could be done at a much cheaper price.

        It is sad that NASA won't even consider other alternatives for access to the ISS or that there may be legitimate solutions to keep it going for at least another decade if not longer. Then again, it was NASA that forced MIR to crash into the Pacific by playing political games. It wasn't costs that were so great that MIR couldn't have stayed aloft, nor congressional budget considerations either. Russia wanted to keep MIR going, but NASA threatened to kick them out of the ISS if MIR wasn't deorbited.

        • If nasa leaves it, the second its empty, russia will launch a fleet of ships to dock and steal it, then usa cannot even do anything about it.

          If they deorbit the ISS, then its a subtle sign that usa it self has the same firey fate of de unification.

          • Hopefully the odds are a little better this time around, NASA disappointed so many hungry people last time.

          • by twosat (1414337)
            Don't laugh, but there are rumours that the Russians are planning to disconnect their section from the rest of the ISS if it is abandoned, leaving them with their own mini space-station. They have the control rocket jets on their portion and some small folded-up solar panels; the Americans have the big solar panels on theirs. Even if the massive American solar panels are not free to rotate to follow the sun and the gyroscopes are not turning to keep the ISS oriented in the same position, I think that it
      • by icebike (68054)

        But what do we need to do in that environment any more?

        Marshall McLuhan wrote a book titled "The Medium is the Message", and as far as the ISS is concerned, "Building it taught us what we wanted to know."

        It wasn't about how peas grow in zero G, or manufacturing taking place in zero G. It was about how can we build something really big and complex in zero G.

        Having done so, I wonder if there is any science left to do that is capable of being done there, given the size constraints.

        Its a fragile structure in a

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Teancum (67324)

          I have long argued that the purpose of the ISS was to transfer spaceflight operations knowledge and orbital construction techniques from the Soviet (yes, I'm using that term correctly here) space program to NASA. It could be argued that such a technology transfer didn't require $100 billion that it cost to put the ISS up into space, but that was one of the major accomplishments that happened.

          Also, it put well over half it not nearly the entire NASA astronaut corps into Star City in Russia, where the cosmon

          • by twosat (1414337)
            How the hell can we expect to send people on a multi-year round trip to Mars if we struggle to keep people alive and equipment functioning on a space station that's only about 200 miles away? If the ISS is disposed off prematurely we will lose a great opportunity to prepare for very-long duration space voyages.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is all Obama and I am an American but... to think that just because one nation wants to let their science programs slip even more doesn't mean that anyone should pull the plug on anything.

      After the ISS is completed, the annual cost of maintaining it will be $4.5 billion a year. By comparison, the total budget of the ESA for 2010 is $5.4 billion (3.74 billion Euros). Keep in mind that's what the ESA spends for all of its projects -- the portion for human spaceflight and exploration is half a billion dollars [esa.int].

      • Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is all Obama and I am an American but... to think that just because one nation wants to let their science programs slip even more doesn't mean that anyone should pull the plug on anything.

        After the ISS is completed, the annual cost of maintaining it will be $4.5 billion a year. By comparison, the total budget of the ESA for 2010 is $5.4 billion (3.74 billion Euros). Keep in mind that's what the ESA spends for all of its projects -- the portion for human spaceflight and exploration is half a billion dollars [esa.int].

        You say it is $4.5 billion per year? I would love to see a private contractor be simply offered the opportunity to:

        1. Build a heavy launcher capable of sending large payloads into orbit
        2. Put up a privately-built spacestation with interior volume at least equal or greater than the current internal volume of the ISS
        3. Have power generation capabilities of at least double the current power levels, including at least double the current energy storage in terms of batteries.
        4. Includes facilities, life support, and other ammenities to support a crew of at least 8 astronauts
        5. Includes multiple docking berths for both Russian Soyuz and American space craft docking standards
        6. Be capable of operating this space station, once built, for at least 5 years including ground support and consumable supplies

        I argue that if you offered a space prize equal to $4.5 billion for the first company to put up a space station with a guaranteed lease agreement for $500 million per year after that for an additional 5 years, you would have companies tripping over themselves just to get such a vehicle built. I'm not talking $4.5 billion for the whole thing, but just for competing for an X-Prize type contest to get this as a one time deal.

        Instead of one, I bet there would be two or three of these things built as well.

        Too bad NASA would never consider doing that. For me, if they could simply de-orbit the ISS today, shut down the Shuttles completely and vacate KSC, and then offer for private contractors to get launch pads at KSC for their own heavy lift vehicles, no only could this happen and be affordable, but I think you would find that such a space station would be built well before 2020.

        Heck, Robert Bigelow at Bigelow Aerospace [bigelowaerospace.com] has already offered to send up a space station module with the same volume as the ISS for about $1 billion (give or take some). It is even already designed, and all he is waiting on now is a customer to fly it. BTW, he does have experience operating space stations too, as he has two of them in orbit right now.

        I'm not questioning the amount of money you have quoted here, as the number feels correct too. It just seems like NASA is incredibly wasteful of the money they have, and that it practically is the very definition of how to spend money in the most foolhardy method possible. Yes, I do know why it cost so much more to run it as a government operation, which is seriously getting off topic to go further.

        • by FleaPlus (6935) on Saturday January 16, 2010 @12:50AM (#30787810) Journal

          I'm not questioning the amount of money you have quoted here, as the number feels correct too. It just seems like NASA is incredibly wasteful of the money they have, and that it practically is the very definition of how to spend money in the most foolhardy method possible.

          Ack, this is really embarrassing on my part, but it looks like the "$4.5 billion a year" figure is inaccurate. I had it from this source [csis.org], which was one of the first items to pop up in my Google search: "In the years after the Shuttle retires, the annual operation costs of the ISS will be $4.5 billion per year.1"

          The footnote says that the figure came from one of these two GAO sources:

          * NASA: Challenges in Completing and Sustaining the International Space Station [gao.gov]

          * Space Station: Actions Under Way to Manage Cost, but Significant Challenges Remain [gao.gov]

          However, after reading your comment I've searched through the text of both GAO sources and I can't find anything to support the first source's claim. I did find the following through from the first GAO report: "NASA estimates that assembly and operating costs of the ISS will be between $2.1 billion to $2.4 billion annually for FY2009-FY2012. The ISS as of February 19, 2008, is approximately 65 percent complete."

          I ended up looking through the final report of the White House/NASA Augustine Commission [nasa.gov] (published late 2009) and found this in section 6.4.2:

          The choice of ending U.S. participation in the ISS in 2015 really provides only one benefit, that of freeing up the roughly $2.5 to $3 billion per year needed to
          run the ISS,
          which can then be invested in the more rapid development of the exploration systems. The Committee's Integrated Option analyses show that if coupled to the choice of commercial crew launch system to low-Earth orbit and the Ares V Lite heavy lift choice, this expenditure on the ISS would delay the exploration of the Moon until the mid-2020s, only a few years after the most aggressive, unconstrained profile would accomplish it.

          In any case, $2.5-$3 billion a year is still a huge chunk of change. I totally agree with your original sentiment.

  • I don't understand (Score:5, Informative)

    by ctachme (1625925) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:21PM (#30785552)
    It isn't clear to me what the rationale for getting rid of the Space Station would be. As far as I can tell, if you didn't want to pay for shipping people up and down, you could still use it as a platform for scientific instruments. In that case, you would just have to occasionally use orbital corrections to compensate for atmospheric drag. So why deorbit it, ever? Is the cost of a few kilo's of propellant really that high? If you're talking about removing the crew that's one thing, but that's an incredible resource that you'd just be wasting.
    • I'd guess there's lots of money to be made designing and maybe building its replacement.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      The basic problem is that the ISS isn't designed to operate unattended and requires a small support army on the ground to monitor it's system, orbit, attitude, etc... (And no, it's not going to be neither cheap nor trivial to change either.)

      • I thought space exploration was about overcoming new challenges. Maybe it would not be cheep or trivial, but it would yield very valuable space automation engineering / research experience. It would also keep one of the big space land marks in place for some more time.

        Isn't de-orbiting the ISS culturally somewhat equivalent to tearing down the statue of freedom because it's too much hassle to paint it?

        2500 AD on education space voyage: Here you can see the 3rd ever build space station, a landmark of great

        • Yes, space exploration is about overcoming new challenges. But modifying the ISS to operate unmanned is 'challenge' equivalent to dropping a hundred pound concrete block on one's hand. You know it's going to hurt, and you know it's going to cost great deal of time, money, and effort to restore a fraction of the functionality it used to have. There's just no point in taking up the challenge.

          Even so, you're never going to get rid of the ground based standing army. Operating a facility like ISS is a comple

    • Because atmospheric drag will slowly bring the ISS lower in altitude until it re-enters. If you just let it do it on its own timescale, the decay will be unpredictable and there's always a chance it'll come down somewhere unpalatable, such as Miami. (I mean that it'd be unpalatable for it to fall on Miami, not that Miami is unpalatable. Or do I?)

      After all, some large chunks of the ISS will survive re-entry more or less whole. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is due to be attached later this year and its

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teancum (67324)

        Something I don't get, and is unanswered in general. When the ISS was first assembled back in 1998, it was asserted at the time that this was going to be the first permanent outpost of humanity in space. One of the reasons for making that statement, besides the fact that the ISS was designed to be modular so sections could be replaced if they started to fail, was that it was so incredibly huge that it simply couldn't be safely deorbited. The first ISS crew (aka Expedition 1) was asserted to be the first

        • by earlymon (1116185)

          Something I don't get, and is unanswered in general. When the ISS was first assembled back in 1998, it was asserted at the time that this was going to be the first permanent outpost of humanity in space.

          Perhaps I'm getting senile in my old age and not remembering things very clearly.

          YOU are doing just fine, my friend. Those were my first thoughts reading the TFS. Your post really sparked the old gray cells and I thank you for that. That said, google is my friend, and the fossil record indeed supports the idea that we were promised and sold as taxpayers the idea that this would be a permanent station - I simply googled "iss permanent outpost" and got some interesting stuff right off the bat:

          http://www.space.com/common/media/show/player.php?show_id=26&ep=4 [space.com]

          http://science.howstuffwor [howstuffworks.com]

  • why bother (Score:2, Interesting)

    by spike hay (534165)

    The reason why more scientists arent interested in performing experiments on the ISS is because we know about everything useful there is to know about zero g vacuum a short distance above Earths surface.

    Put more money into unmanned probes, where the real science is getting done. Keep in mind they cancelled the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter to pump more money into this piece of crap. That probe would have unbelievably expanded our knowledge of the Jovian system. I know sending humans into LEO is super neat and a

    • Re:why bother (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:49PM (#30785820) Journal

      is because we know about everything useful there is to know about zero g vacuum a short distance above Earths surface.

      I disagree. The long term effects of weightlessness on the human body require more study. Especially in terms of ways to mitigate muscular and skeletal degeneration. It's hard to do that kind of work without sending people up there for significant amounts of time.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "I disagree. The long term effects of weightlessness on the human body require more study. Especially in terms of ways to mitigate muscular and skeletal degeneration. It's hard to do that kind of work without sending people up there for significant amounts of time."

        That is hardly urgent work. We could wait hundreds of years without manned space flight, but robotic systems are valuable now and will absolutely be required to exploit the universe. We should perfect sending robots to work in space to the point

      • You've cited the one and only one thing that needs to be done up there.

        Everything else is pointless.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter would have a hard time anyway, with its usage of nuclear reactor...

      As for ISS - remember toilet breakage? Problems with old treadmill necessitating designing and sending Colbert? Such simple stuff..and yet we are far from getting things really right when it comes to space travel - better try in LEO. Deep space differs mostly in radiation and engine parts, and we can model those easily.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ColdWetDog (752185)
        Exactly. We can't even get the urine recycler working yet [xinhuanet.com]. There is an enormous amount of engineering that needs to be improved upon before we can consider ourselves facile in outer space. While the ISS may not be the perfect platform for this research, it has the considerable advantage of existing.

        We should definitely keep it running for a while, if for no other reason to keep a fire lit under NASA's butt to get our heavy lift capabilities back to where they were in 1969.
    • The reason why more scientists arent interested in performing experiments on the ISS is because we know about everything useful there is to know about zero g vacuum a short distance above Earths surface.

      You mean like they wanted to shut down the patent office because there was nothing left to be patented? "Everything that can be invented has been invented." Charles H. Duell, U.S. Commissioner of Patents (1899) (Actually, this is a myth, but it seemed amusingly appropriate here...)

  • by sznupi (719324) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:32PM (#30785666) Homepage

    With the station complete, needing only resupply that will be provided by Russian, European or US commercial launches (I'm hearing NASA wants to mostly buy the flights from them, as far as resupply goes), perhaps even Japanese cargo launcher, where's the really big problem in extending ISS life?

    The worse thing for NASA then would be facing responsibility for the final fate of their modules - but I'm sure a deal "you can use them as long as you will properly deorbit them" (ESA and Roskosmos are certainly capable of this) isn't a problem?

    • NASA is also looking to Space X for resupplying. (Much more exciting company than the Russians). On that note, their first launch of the falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for February 2nd. :D
      • by Teancum (67324)

        Correction: SpaceX has come forward and is building the capability for resupplying the ISS. NASA didn't want to use SpaceX, and the Washington D.C. office for NASA has some egg on its face for even considering the idea. In the time that it has taken NASA to launch a dummy rocket that has almost no relationship with the final vehicle that will actually fly, and with a projected cost exceeding $100 billion, SpaceX has designed from scratch an entirely different launch capability and has done that for less

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In response NASA stuck out it's hat.

  • ..is a good dunk in the Pacific. Flying people around in low earth orbit is neither science nor particularly inspirational as human spaceflight, and uses up billions that could fund real space science missions.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      Interesting that attacks on manned platforms are so often modded Troll.

      How about some valid counterarguments instead of hiding behind moderation like a little bitch?

      • People don't care about science its not exciting it isn't on the minds of the people. This results in a collapse in funding. Inspiration directly effects funding, funding directly effects science done.

        Not that complicated... Really we should be sending people to mars purely for the drama and interest in space it'd cause.
        • First person video of remote controlled devices is every bit as exciting as when there's someone holding the camera.

          Finding life around other stars is even more exciting; and we could do that with the money spent on manned spaceflight, if instead we built big ass telescopes (in space or not). For example, with a 100m-wide telescope we know we have enough resolution to get a spectrum of the atmosphere of an earth-like planet around a nearby star. Dioxygen in the spectrum? I'm sorry that's 1000 times more exc

          • I agree completely... but I'm a /.er, Joe thinks that dioxygen is for nerds and makes them want to punch things or push people into lockers.
      • by anyGould (1295481)

        How about some valid counterarguments instead of hiding behind moderation like a little bitch?

        Sure, I'll bite.

        Not being a rocket surgeon, I can't speak to whether "useful" Science is being done up there or not (or at least Science that couldn't be done by our future robotic overlords).

        What I see going on at the ISS is basic research into keeping people alive. Because while it was fun to day-trip out to the Moon, in the long term we need to be able to get there and set up shop. Which means we need both halves of the space program (actually thirds, when you figure it's smarter to send the robots first

  • If NASA doesn't want it, they should sell it, or at least their share in it. Of course they can't because that's be slapping their own face. Kind of a handicap, being able to build something but nit maintain it.

  • by phantomcircuit (938963) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:55PM (#30785870) Homepage

    Obviously they want the ISS to continue to be operational. They get to use it and the US tax payer gets to pay for it.

    Yes I am aware that they pay for part of it, but it is a fraction of what NASA pays.

    • by IrquiM (471313)

      Compared to Iraq and Afghanistan, the cost of keeping ISS operational is also a fraction. An even smaller fraction!

  • If NASA does not want to pay for supply and maintenance, will the other participating nations step up and pay for the flights?
    If yes, an extension should be easy to negotiate. After all, de-orbiting the ISS won't bring any NASA Money back.
    If no, you might as well de-orbit the station.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Slow down a bit with the last part, Russians would like to use their modules, after detaching them, as a starting point for "Mir 3" (3 because Russian part of the ISS is composed of what was supposed to become Mir 2, essentially). Or so they say lately...

      I wonder what else can be salvaged ;)

  • by t0qer (230538) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:58PM (#30785900) Homepage Journal
    I've heard this suggested somewhere before that ISS would make an awesome vehicle for getting to mars.
    • by BitHive (578094)

      Was that the same person that suggested using the Kursk as a deep sea habitat?

    • I've heard this suggested somewhere before that ISS would make an awesome vehicle for getting to mars.

      +1 Interesting. That sir, is the coolest idea I've heard this week

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zocalo (252965)
      I don't think that would work. You'd need quite a bit of thrust to push the ISS (plus the fuel and drive to do the pushing) out of Earth's orbit and I doubt very much that the entire structure would have been designed to take the strain. It's not going to do you much good if as soon as you fire the engines the solar panels snap off and the lights go out...

      You might be able to do something using a low thrust Ion drive, but you'd still need to spend an awfully long time going round and round in ever incr
      • by sznupi (719324)

        While ISS would perhaps have problems with some of the more powerful rocket engines available, it certainly doesn't require thrust characteristic of ion drive to maintain structural integrity.

        After all, it was boosted by Progress, ATV or Shuttle many times. While they were attached only by the airlock. With the vector of force not positioned optimally too, probably. ...which doesn't of course change the fact that using ISS outside of the protective magnetosphere, far from Earth, is not a good idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by t0qer (230538)

      Hey guys found the source, it was a Washington post article.

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/11/AR2008071102394.html [washingtonpost.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      I've heard this suggested somewhere before that ISS would make an awesome vehicle for getting to mars.

      If by 'awesome' you actually mean 'utterly and completely unsuitable', sure. Otherwise no.

      It's structure isn't designed to take the stresses that pushing out of Earth orbit will entail. (And no, ion engines aren't the answer. They aren't up to the job.) Even if it were designed to take those stresses, passing through the Van Allen belts will fry it's unshielded electronics and crew. Their corps

  • They want the ISS to stay up until 20/20? I just don't see it.

  • I thought the Space Shuttle is going to be retired. So only the Russian Soyuz can make manned flights to the ISS. It's a bit strange though to imagine that in five years there might not be any more manned space flights.

    • SpaceX is being positioned to replace NASA-ISS resupply. SpaceX is also working towards manned flight capabilities. I wouldn't doubt that the slack in NASA's manned capabilities will be temporarily if not permanently replaced by them--we'll see how Ares goes...
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, SpaceX is set to start supply flights to the ISS by 2012, with a human rated lift vehicle capable of astronaut launches by 2015. Check out SpaceX.com.

  • Neither party in the US take space exploration at all seriously, because there is no short term quick money to be made. So we are spending roughly 1/3 of the budget that we really need to "do space right". We need to adopt a more "Japanese " style long term approach to research and profit making. But this requires the American people to rethink their mindset, which shows no probability of occurring. Having said that, it is idiotic to throw away a station we spent so many years building away. We have it, an
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by R3d M3rcury (871886)

      The main reason to retire the Shuttle, in my opinion, is that it costs too much to run for the "simple" task of delivering people to ISS. It's sort of like using an SUV to drive to the corner store to pick up a soda. Sure it will work, but it's kind of a pricey (and wasteful) way of doing it. And while I have no problem spending money on human space travel, I do have a problem wasting money on human space travel.

      I don't believe in the whole "private industry exploring space." That said, if Space-X can l

  • by 4181 (551316) on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:49PM (#30786836)

    How much of a blow to low-g biological research was the cancellation of the Centrifuge Accommodations Module [wikipedia.org]? It seems that a good amount micro-g biological research has been done (and hopefully will continue to be done during the next ten years), but very little is known about low-g effects. I would think that multiple generation vertebrate (lab rat) study of the effects of prolonged 1/3 and 1/6 g exposure would be critical to understanding the issues of a mars mission or a lunar base.

    We have one spare shuttle external tank beyond the current manifest, so even if the shuttle is retired, the program could be extended for one more flight. (Early Augustine Commission discussions suggested this as a good idea for a number of reasons.) Could CAM construction be restarted and rushed to completion in time for a launch 18 months of so from now?

    Imagine an ambitious mars program that spent the next decade with humans not traveling beyond LEO, but doing the serious research needed. After five years or so of low-g biological research on the ISS, long term human exposure tests could be done in a spinning "habitat on a cable attached to a counterweight". That way, after ten years of accelerated rover exploration and materials and technology development, we would have the knowledge to plan a serious mars mission, quite possible involving one-way trips and permanent stays.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by couchslug (175151)

      "Imagine an ambitious mars program that spent the next decade with humans not traveling beyond LEO, but doing the serious research needed."

      Imagine a decades long program of remote-manned Mars missions instead, which would vastly enhance the scope of what we could do on Mars and elsewhere before we send the meat tourists.

      The idea that people should do things directly despite the extreme burden posed by supporting them on-site is terribly counterproductive because is diverts attention from robotic efforts we

      • by khallow (566160)

        Imagine a decades long program of remote-manned Mars missions instead, which would vastly enhance the scope of what we could do on Mars and elsewhere before we send the meat tourists.

        I might add, any serious proposal for exploring Mars, has a large unmanned segment. It doesn't need to be decades long (delay of that length is in fact probably fatal to any manned plan), but you'll need to send a lot of metal before people walk on Mars.

    • by khallow (566160) on Friday January 15, 2010 @11:42PM (#30787482)

      How much of a blow to low-g biological research was the cancellation of the Centrifuge Accommodations Module?

      I think it was a very serious blow to the value of the ISS, but that is IMHO. It's worth noting that the European modules have some centrifuges as well, so we may still get some low gravity research. I don't know the capabilities of these other centrifuges though.

      Imagine an ambitious mars program that spent the next decade with humans not traveling beyond LEO, but doing the serious research needed. After five years or so of low-g biological research on the ISS, long term human exposure tests could be done in a spinning "habitat on a cable attached to a counterweight". That way, after ten years of accelerated rover exploration and materials and technology development, we would have the knowledge to plan a serious mars mission, quite possible involving one-way trips and permanent stays.

      A common problem with our history of space development is simply that we haven't done the research to determine how to do a number of our goals in space or what the problems associated with doing that sort of thing in space. Low gravity research should be an obvious focus of biological science in space because there are long term plans for humans and other biological lifeforms to live in these environments. There are many other things that also haven't been done, but would be a lot less risky, if they were tried, even once. This process is called "retirement" of risk and occurs any time you figure out a risk, problem, or new technology for the first time.

      Anyway, in addition to the effects of low gravity research, we also need to develop at some point technologies like more sophisticated orbital assembly techniques, propellant depots, high launch frequency rockets, aerocapture, nuclear propulsion (in space), etc. I think it's shameful that so much, that we know we'll need for the space program, both manned and unmanned, isn't worked out even with decades of opportunity to do so.

      One key effect of risk retirement, which I particularly like, is that it reduces the barrier to entry for commercial activity in space. For example, suppose I wanted to make a business out of sending colonists to Mars (they pay me to go to Mars). I pick this example precisely because it is currently wholly unrealistic. One of the bigger reasons it is unrealistic is that I have no clue about many huge risks of moving people in space and colonization. In addition to the completely unknown effects of Mars level gravity (which is a third that of Earth), I have no idea how to bring people there in a cost effective and reliable manner, how to land them on Mars, where they will live, nor what they will do. This is before you even consider the cost of doing these activities (which probably will remain epically expensive for decades to come). Even a dozen competing groups would all have to deal with this problem. Without any sort of coordination, they'll all have to pay to solve the same tremendous problems. Some sort of communal problem solving makes sense.

      Most of these risks are solvable (or at least, we'd be able to accept and plan for the consequences of them, once we know what those consequences are), but you can't even been to discuss a business plan with the paltry knowledge and technology we currently have. It just doesn't make a bit of sense.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        What is keeping people from going to Mars on their own dime is not really so much a factor that there are a whole bunch of unknowns about getting there (which is a problem, but not insurmountable), but rather a government willing to even let people do it in the first place.

        The regulatory steps that a company must go through in order to get into space is huge, and it becomes a business nightmare to consider that even if you have some of the best and brightest engineers on the Earth that are helping to design

        • by khallow (566160)
          I can come with a few examples myself. E-Prime Aerospace tried to fly refurbished Peacekeeper missiles, but they were blocked by Congress from using those rockets for commercial purposes. Orbital Sciences uses the Peacekeepers now, but I think they can only use them for military payloads. Supposedly six "welterweight" launch companies (very small payloads to orbit, around 1 kg) died when NASA started its own competitor and killed whatever existed for the market. So regulation and incompetent/malicious gover
          • by Teancum (67324)

            I stand by my assertion that you need more lawyers and lobbyists in Washington D.C. than engineers. A team with patience, an abundant cash reserve, good connections with P.R. firms, and participation with the campaigns of several key congressmen (with of course the appropriate campaign contributions) are the best way to get into space.

            That takes significant overhead. What is sort of funny is that in spite of having that sort of ratio of lawyers to engineers, they can still build vehicles that are cheaper

            • by khallow (566160)
              I think you exaggerate the bureaucratic burden a little, not a lot a little. I think a small, dedicated team can handle the paperwork. A similar team can do the necessary wheeling and dealing in Washington DC and any involved state governments (who often will eagerly assist the space business with its case).

              The worst problem as I see it is the dirty pool that the big aerospace government contractors play both on aerospace newcomers (who might not be in the contracting industry at all) and each other. You
  • that ending a project that took over 15 years and over a hundred shuttle launches, less than 5 years after we finished building it, would be a stupid waste of money. Now the ISS is up there and complete, (couple more launches to go), we should milk it for every use we can get out of it, it cost enough, its unique, and new space station isn't going to happen soon.

    ---

    Space Craft [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

  • Of course they do! Russia and Europe love having their meager space programs subsidized by US tax payers, and want it to continue. ISS access gives them prestige they do not merit. Throw the foreigners off of the Space Station Freedom!

  • Here are two sentences:
    • "Dordain says that no one partner in the ISS project could unilaterally call an end to the platform and that a meeting would be held in Japan later in the year where he hoped the partners could get some clarity."
    • "Dordain says that no one partner in the ISS project could unilaterally call an end to the platform and that a meeting would be held in Japan later in the year where he hoped the partners could get some clarity going forward."

    Is there a difference in meaning?

  • are going to have to force the United States to realise that the policy of denying the Chinese access to the global effort known as the International Space Station is bankrupt. Like it or not, the Chinese possess both the scientific and the economic muscle to play an important role in humanity's attempt to jump out of our gravity well, coupled with a burning desire to do so, and we can no longer allow the vagaries of US foreign policy to hinder them from contributing to this task.... Henri

RADIO SHACK LEVEL II BASIC READY >_

Working...