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ISS Space Science

Russian Resupply Crash Could Mean Leaving ISS Empty 291

Posted by timothy
from the needs-a-good-cat-sitter dept.
astroengine writes "In the wake of the Russian Progress vehicle crash shortly after launch on Aug. 24, a chain of events has been set into motion that could result in the decision not to fly astronauts into orbit. If this happens, the ISS will be temporarily mothballed before the end of the year to avoid landing astronauts during the harsh Kazakh winter."
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Russian Resupply Crash Could Mean Leaving ISS Empty

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  • Oh if only (Score:5, Funny)

    by discord5 (798235) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @10:30AM (#37233578)

    Oh if only some other nation had something spaceworthy... Like a shuttle or so...

    • Re:Oh if only (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @10:59AM (#37233764) Journal
      At this point, it would take about 2 years to restart the shuttle program. When W killed it, much of the production lines were shut down. So, at this point, it would costs BILLIONS to restart the problem.

      However, private space is about to have 2 different cargo systems ready shortly. In addition, it is possible that either ATV or HTV can be speed up. However, my gut feeling says that Russia will launch within a month, successfully. Issues solved for this issue.

      What is needed is not the cargo, but human launchers ASAP. Now, a number of neo-cons have been pushing to give 10's of billion MORE Than the 20 billion that it appears that it will take. They claim that it would then be done quicker. HOWEVER, the current timeline for the 70 tonne rocket says that it will be ready in 2022. Adding the 10 billion MAY shave a couple of years off that. Hey, being optimistic, you might get it out the door in 2018. IOW, this is a typical neo-cons scenario of pump/dump money into a project that can not be afforded but they want for a jobs bill for themselves.

      OTH, CCDev is expected to have 3-4 crafts by 2015 (starting in late 2013/early 2014). Of course, that assume the 3/4 billion from the next CCDev bid. However the same ppl from above are working hard to block this. HOWEVER, it is possible that jumping the amount from .75 to say 2 billion, MIGHT get the first system ready by early 2013, perhaps late 2012. But getting the neo-cons to allocate, well, that is a different matter.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by trout007 (975317)

        Since I have been working at KSC during this whole mess I'll give my perspectIve. Bush did set the end date for the last shuttle launch. He then outlined the VSE and Griffen came up with the Constellation program. The problem is Bush's lack of leadership in getting the funding to get it done. It would have taken maybe 5 billion more a year which we would rather spend in Mideast wars.

        When Obama came in he had a choice. Get more funding to get constellation going, restart the shuttle components production to

        • As you say, the money was spent in wars. I doubt obama could have stopped those with the flick of a switch once they had been started ?

        • Re:Oh if only (Score:5, Insightful)

          by strack (1051390) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @12:59PM (#37234580)
          the shuttle was a bad design. it needed to die a merciful death. as did the frankenshuttle derived constellation program.
        • Re:Oh if only (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 0123456 (636235) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @01:15PM (#37234692)

          Since I have been working at KSC during this whole mess I'll give my perspectIve. Bush did set the end date for the last shuttle launch. He then outlined the VSE and Griffen came up with the Constellation program. The problem is Bush's lack of leadership in getting the funding to get it done.

          Uh, no.

          The problem is that NASA designed a program that would cost far more than the government was willing to give them.

          If they'd built a Dragon-style capsule and put it on top of an Atlas or Delta, they'd probably have it in operation by now. Instead they wanted to build a capsule the size of a hotel and two new launchers of their own to launch it. Since the Apollo era NASA has often acted as though they have an infinite budget and then whined when their expensive plans get cancelled because there's no money for them.

        • Re:Oh if only (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @01:39PM (#37234848) Homepage Journal
          But I think the relevant question is, should Obama have reversed the cancellation of the shuttle program? Considering that program was such an epic money sink for getting nowhere past LEO, and the fact that most of the technology being used had not improved since the late 1970's, I would assert that saving the shuttle program would have actually been a poort choice. That is just my teo cents as an launch vehicle engineer working outside of the shuttle program, though.
        • Re:Oh if only (Score:4, Interesting)

          by yog (19073) * on Sunday August 28, 2011 @02:52PM (#37235352) Homepage Journal

          During the 2008 presidential election, Obama's campaign website contained a plan to cancel Constellation to pay for a national daycare program.

          Someone must have told him not to run on an anti-space platform, because this particular plank was later removed. Furthermore, his national daycare program never got off the ground.

          However, other expensive initiatives were indeed passed (healthcare, various bailouts), and Obama did follow through and cancel the current NASA shuttle replacement, until "the technology exists" in 10 or 15 years.

          The subsequent uproar from senators and congressmen in affected districts, supporters of the American space program, the press, and the general public then forced the Obama Administration to backtrack a bit, and they restored parts of the program including the actual capsule and a modified launcher.

          However it is clear that Obama has never been a big supporter of manned space efforts. Bush's vision was to replace the Shuttle fairly quickly, but unfortunately he shut down the shuttle before actually having a replacement in the wings. This gave Obama an opening to not only shut down the publicly funded manned program and give it over to the private sector, but he could blame Bush for the whole mess.

        • Constellation is intrinsically unworkable due to thrust oscillation issues, it would have required a completely new design. The US won't be able to afford medicare in about five years let alone space flight so Obama's killing manned space flight is understandable. (Obama is a dealer not a leader but that's not relevant) The space shuttle is a bad compromise that should have been replaced decades ago, it's crazy to think about retaining it. Given current financial incompetence in the US it's unlikely the
    • by slick7 (1703596)

      Oh if only some other nation had something spaceworthy... Like a shuttle or so...

      It's bad enough when our own program fails, but to leave it to an outside program to fail really sucks since there is no insurance on the failure, just money gone

    • by jo42 (227475)

      Oh if only some other nation had something spaceworthy... Like a shuttle or so...

      Or pull something out of Area 51...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 28, 2011 @10:48AM (#37233702)

    And the era of human spacetravel came to an end. Not from discovery or war or any disaster. But simple greed. Greed that says using our resources to take what others have or wasting those resources for entertainment are more important than the spread of the species.

    Trapping us all on this tiny blue planet until the inevitable end comes.

    So we wait for the next global disaster to wipe us all out in one swipe. Be it a germ, comet, meteor, pole shift, solar flare, gamma burst, supervolcano or the unwise use of technology itself.

    Perhaps if another species arises on this planet it will be a little more intelligent and not keep all their stuff in one place.

    It's ok tho. It seems to be a common mistake given the emptiness of the universe. So don't sweat it too much. Go have a beer and some fast food, sit down and watch tv. That's whats important after all.

    • well the old shuttle was getting old and the newer spaceX stuff is now ready yet also Constellation was not going to be ready by 2011 any ways. If not for the Columbia disaster we may still be useing the shuttles to day.

      • by Teancum (67324)

        well the old shuttle was getting old and the newer spaceX stuff is now ready yet also Constellation was not going to be ready by 2011 any ways. If not for the Columbia disaster we may still be useing the shuttles to day.

        Correction, the Constellation program wasn't really going to be ready until 2015 at the earliest, and the more realistic projection was that it wouldn't be ready until 2020. There was a wish that perhaps the Ares I might have been ready this year (2011) when it was originally proposed, but there were a number of engineering issues that came up in part because they had an extended number of sections in the solid rocket stack where vibrations from the rocket would make the vehicle unusable for any astronauts

    • Don't worry, once the technological singularity happens we'll spread to space. Well, not we, but 'it' will.

    • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Sunday August 28, 2011 @11:21AM (#37233880) Homepage

      So we wait for the next global disaster to wipe us all out in one swipe.

      The problem with that logic is that space isn't salvation, it's the worst kind of global disaster 24/7 all year long with no air to breath and temperatures that will kill you in a matter of minutes.

      If you somehow find a way to survive in space, you can just apply those same technologies to earth and will be save for any disaster imaginable.

      • by nusuth (520833)

        So we wait for the next global disaster to wipe us all out in one swipe.

        The problem with that logic is that space isn't salvation, it's the worst kind of global disaster 24/7 all year long with no air to breath and temperatures that will kill you in a matter of minutes.

        If you somehow find a way to survive in space, you can just apply those same technologies to earth and will be save for any disaster imaginable.

        That is exactly the point. For long term survival we need technologies that allows us to survive i otherwise hostile environments. Human colonization of space is a great way to research and prove such technologies. if the whole human population on Earth is dead when a planet wide disaster strikes, it wouldn't matter much whether or not we have a dozen survivors in space but a space colony almost ensures that that will never happen.

        • For long term survival we need technologies that allows us to survive i otherwise hostile environments. Human colonization of space is a great way to research and prove such technologies.

          Actually, you're wrong there. Blasting stuff off into space tremendously accelerates the degradation of the only environment we can live in. Look at the greenhouse-gas emissions from a shuttle launch sometime, let alone the environmental impact of the space program as a whole.

          We'd be far better off working on 'research on

          • Look at the greenhouse-gas emissions from a shuttle launch sometime

            ... The shuttle's main propulsion is liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Its exhaust product is water vapor.

            • by 0123456 (636235)

              The shuttle's main propulsion is liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Its exhaust product is water vapor.

              Exactly. If I remember correctly, about 80% of the 'greenhouse effect' on Earth comes from water vapor.

            • by Teancum (67324)

              Look at the greenhouse-gas emissions from a shuttle launch sometime

              ... The shuttle's main propulsion is liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Its exhaust product is water vapor.

              Which is also a greenhouse gas. Still, by far and away the largest "carbon footprint" of most current rocket launches is the construction of the thing in the first place, from the mines that have to extract the minerals to make the body of the rocket to the petroleum used to create the rocket fuel (or at least power the electrical generating plants used to make the fuel). Not to mention the thousands of workers making these vehicles over the years and their driving to and from their place of employment ev

            • Water vapor is a greenhouse gas, and since the hydrogen used comes from natural gas, IIRC, the Shuttle does add the water to the environment. But the water isn't up in the atmosphere all of the time, and the quantity from a shuttle launch was probably a lot more benign than the amount of CO2 we've dumped up there in the same period of time.

              The SRBs have pretty nasty exhausts, but I don't think they're greenhouse gases. It would've been nice, though, if they had gone with the LRB option instead.

          • by khallow (566160)

            Blasting stuff off into space tremendously accelerates the degradation of the only environment we can live in.

            So what? If the degradation "accelerated or not" is insignificant, which is the current case, then we have better things to worry about. Such as elevating everyone from poverty.

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 28, 2011 @11:28AM (#37233920) Homepage

      So we wait for the next global disaster to wipe us all out in one swipe. Be it a germ, comet, meteor, pole shift, solar flare, gamma burst, supervolcano or the unwise use of technology itself.

      You're deluding yourself if you think a few months or a few years delay in manned spaceflight would make one whit of difference. We're at least a century, if not more, from being able to create a 'colony' off planet that could survive (let alone prosper) prosper absent massive and ongoing support from Earth.

    • Trapping us all on this tiny blue planet until the inevitable end comes

      Sob. This tiny blue planet
      Sob. The inevitable.

      Yeah, the inevitable is that you seem to have stopped your Prozac again. You know, with a little care and foresight this 4 billion year old rock can take care of us for a couple of billion more years. It's a nice planet. You might want to step outside and enjoy it.

    • good news for you though. marijuana is now legal in some states.
      and we have this little robot scuttering all over mars!

    • I haven't noticed the Chinese scaling back. Granted, they're not as far along.

      I think they still count as part of humanity, so human space travel wouldn't come to an end even if both the US and Russians stopped.

      I don't like the possibility of mothballing at all but I think you're being a little breathless.

    • or wasting those resources for entertainment are more important than the spread of the species

      Uggh, I hate the neo-puritan attitude that every second of life needs to be sent doing something "useful" and that anything done purely for happiness is evil.

  • by MaxBooger (1877454) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @11:00AM (#37233778)

    According to a prior slashdot article [slashdot.org], SpaceX is slated for another demonstration launch late November, this time docking with the ISS. Yes, it is a demo flight so, yes, you can't trust it to succeed. Still, is there any reason they cant load up the Dragon capsule with [critically required items]?

    • by Dr La (1342733)
      The problem is not supplies: there are enough supplies in the ISS already to last untill after the winter.

      The problem is that the only remaining return Soyuz module apparently is not fit to function untill next spring. So it has to return earlier, if no replacement arrives before that point. The hazard of a landing under winter (darkness) condition means that it cannot return later than November. Leaving the ISS with no return vehicle after November.

      So not, SpaceX can not come to the rescue....
      • by Teancum (67324)

        So not, SpaceX can not come to the rescue....

        The Dragon capsule is being designed with human spaceflight in mind. That said, the crewed version of the Dragon is still under development as the launch escape system is still being worked upon as well as a few additional flights are being requested to test the equipment before crews are using that spacecraft. On top of that, I don't believe that the Dragon has an independent capability of docking to an unmanned space station and requires at least somebody in the station to use the construction arm to po

  • by kabloom (755503) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @11:02AM (#37233790) Homepage

    Russia has had fewer astronaut fatailities [wikipedia.org] than the United States, and all of the fatalities Russia has had have been less recent than any of the US's fatalities (those occurring in space, not on the ground). Although it would certainly be a tragedy if people died on a Russian spacecraft, please remember that the reason we now rely on Russian spacecraft is because people died on American spacecraft, and NASA responded by retiring all of the spacecraft involved in the human space program (without developing replacements).

    • Russia has had fewer astronaut fatailities [wikipedia.org] than the United States

      Only because they put fewer people into a spacecraft than we do. They've lost two crews, we've lost two crews.

    • Russia has had fewer astronaut fatailities than the United States

      So what? That's an emotional argument, not an engineering one.

      all of the fatalities Russia has had have been less recent than any of the US's fatalities (those occurring in space, not on the ground).

      Yet, Russia has had an ongoing series of accidents and incidents with it's flights - and that with both the booster *and* the spacecraft. If a US craft behaved in the same way, there would be screams from all quarters to ground it, fire t

      • by strack (1051390)
        uh, what? im pretty sure astronauts not getting killed is a primary engineering objective of manned spaceflight. a better safety record sounds like a pretty good engineering based argument to me. a emotional argument might be something like "oh the shuttle is shaped like a plane, and planes are highly reusable, so the shuttle will be highly reusable and not incredibly expensive at all mr congressman". you know, for example.
        • uh, what? im pretty sure astronauts not getting killed is a primary engineering objective of manned spaceflight. a better safety record sounds like a pretty good engineering based argument to me.

          It sounds good to you because you lack reading comprehension, basic critical thinking skills, and seemingly completely lack any background knowledge relative to the matter.. The OP didn't base his argument on the number of fatal accidents (which is the engineering measurement that determines the safety record), but

      • by Clsid (564627)

        all of the fatalities Russia has had have been less recent than any of the US's fatalities (those occurring in space, not on the ground).

        Yet, Russia has had an ongoing series of accidents and incidents with it's flights - and that with both the booster *and* the spacecraft. If a US craft behaved in the same way, there would be screams from all quarters to ground it, fire the managers, and consider canceling it. Here, you don't even seem aware that they have even occurred.

        And that's pretty much what the Ru

        • You seem really, really impressed by all the smoke and mirrors the Russians have created - and utterly unaware that accidents and incidents continue to happen apace. They have yet to ground the Soyuz capsule despite those continuing incidents.

          Go get informed yourself.

    • The third stage shut down cleanly. There would have been no problem separating the spaceship from the rocket, then separating the service module and habitation module from the capsule ... and the rest is standard maneuvers.

      The capsule is aerodynamically stable, so they'd only have to wait for it to come back down and open the parachute. It would have been cold in Siberia, true - but they wouldn't be dead. Unlike people in a fragile Space Shuttle with no means to escape or airport to land.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The shuttle accidents did not occur in space - the shuttles were still in the air, and thus aircraft. So, no American space craft have had accidents, and I believe the American aircraft safety record is actually quite good compared to the Soviets.

  • SpaceX is currently planning to launch a cargo vehicle to the ISS this November. Perhaps that will alleviate the situation.

    Is it a requirement that they land their ships where they do? Couldn't they, at least as a limited emergency measure, land them in a more temperate climate? I'm sure the United States would be happy to provide whatever assistance needed to land them at some appropriate location here (assuming there isn't a more reasonable location in Europe or Asia).

    • The problem is that without the Soyuz, there's no official way to get astronauts home during the winter. The Dragon isn't officially man-rated yet. That doesn't mean it probably wouldn't work anyway, but nobody at NASA is going to jeopardize his career by officially relying upon a Dragon to safely get astronauts home until someone higher up has given it the official stamp of approval.

      Of course, if the necessary training could be completed in time, Elon could probably solve that problem by announcing that he

      • OK, so they need the Soyuz to return cosmonauts from the ISS. Is there a compelling reason why they have to land them in Kazakhstan?

        Since the Soyuz lands on solid ground, I would think there are numerous places with nicer climates where they could land instead. Does it really make more sense to abandon the ISS for the winter instead of temporarily picking a landing spot in a nicer climate?

        And, I suspect your prediction will turn out to be correct.

  • Just dunk the damn thing.. Wall Street isn't interested anyway.

  • Astronauts? (Score:5, Funny)

    by jdbannon (1620995) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @11:24AM (#37233894)
    We're all cosmonauts now, comrade.
  • by mbone (558574) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @11:26AM (#37233910)

    First, please note that this is not about supplying the ISS, it's about getting the crew there. NASA is worried about the safety of Soyuz.

    Also, note that the flight of the Soyuz is not dependent on NASA. NASA doesn't get that call, although they could yank their astronauts from the vehicle, they can't ground it.

    So, there is little to no chance that the ISS will be abandoned. I predict the Russians will keep a crew there, regardless of NASA's decision.

    • where have those NASA safety people been for the past 20 years? we lost 14+ astronauts because of those clowns, now they are telling us the Russians are unsafe?

      • by mbone (558574)

        Who knows? I would not assume that this is all it appears to be. We may want the Russians to do something (improve some system on the Soyuz, say) and may be using this for leverage.

  • by cratermoon (765155) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @11:34AM (#37233966) Homepage

    In Soviet Russia, ISS abandons YOU!!

    Note that if the station is left unmanned, it will be the end of an 11-year run of humans continuously in space, starting with the October, 2000 arrival of the Expedition 1 crew at ISS.

    By the way, the Chinese are still flying their man-rated Long March.

  • Space X has yet to put a man into space. Period.

    Keep that in mind before saying how "useless" "overfunded" "wasteful" the NASA Shuttle and Constellation programs were.
  • There is a simple solution to this problem. Launch another Soyuz rocket with another Progress module. Save the soul-searching and blame-finding for later. Sure, find out what went wrong and fix it. But do that after you have satisfied the customer.

    Now, apparently Russia and NASA aren't going to do the simple route. But what's more important? Working the bugs out of a launch system or keep the primary customer, a space station with a multi-billion dollar replacement cost from splashing?

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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