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+ - Is the ISS Really Worth $100 Billion?

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Ponca City
Ponca City writes "JR Minkel writes on Space.com that as NASA celebrates the 10th anniversary of astronauts living on the space station — and with construction essentially complete, the question remains — will the International Space Station ever really pay off scientifically? To put the ISS in perspective, the Large Hadron Collider was a relative bargain at $9 billion, and even its contributions are likely to be too abstract to hold most people's attention. The space agency contends that the weightless environment provided by the station offers a unique way of unmasking processes of cell growth and chemistry that are hidden on Earth but some critics don't see a zero gravity laboratory as filling a crucial scientific need. Gregory Petsko, a biochemist at Brandeis University, says the only basic science justification he has ever heard for the station is that protein molecules form superior crystals in the microgravity of space than they do on Earth and a best-case scenario, in terms of return on investment, would be if a space-grown crystal were used to design a blockbuster pharmaceutical drug that worked by precisely targeting one of those proteins. "I haven't seen any really important structures yet that absolutely required the space station for crystal growth, and there are a heck of a lot of structures out there," says Petsko. Naturally NASA sees things differently. "I think those who are naysayers haven't given us a chance — haven't given us enough time to show what we can do," says Tara Ruttley, NASA's associate program scientist for the ISS. "We're just now turning the path to be able to go full force on our science. In the past we had to fit it in around assembly, we didn't have the facilities available, and the crew was always busy.""
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Is the ISS Really Worth $100 Billion?

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