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New Russian Space Station 'Real Possibility' 241

su-geek writes: "BBC is reporting that the Russians are looking into the feasibility of a commercial space station. The Station would be used to promote space tourism and would help pay for future supply missions to the ISS." I think they should get into the business of crashing space stations into the Pacific, and bringing tourists on boats to watch the fireworks.
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New Russian Space Station 'Real Possibility'

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  • Hey barely have the money for what they are supposed to do for the ISS. I don't think the US would let them get away with it after all the financial problems they have caused us already. This is just politico's talking it up at best.
    • "This is just politico's talking it up at best."

      Yeah, and at worst, they're like every other politician in the world and will go ahead with it anyway, even if the project sinks them even deeper in debt. We're talking about politicians, remember?

    • >Hey barely have the money for what they are
      >supposed to do for the ISS. I don't think the US
      >would let them get away with it after all the
      >financial problems they have caused us already

      And what would the US do about it exactly ? Cancel russia's membership in ISS and dump russian modules ? yeah right :)

      Let me think, what did they do again to try to prevent them from sending Tito to the ISS ?

      Oh yeah, that's it... they used -political pressure-... that worked so well.


      go ahead, I deserve that troll moderation, come on!
  • ...this one will be built of 60% duct tape and 40% bailing wire, instead of the 40/60 split Mir was made of.

    - A.P.
  • This isn't actually that bad of a plan, assuming there are that many people willing to pay ~$20 mil to go orbital.

    At least this way the tourists get shunted off somewhere they can't screw serious research up. And if people with way too much money for their own good want to spend it taking trips into space, why stop them?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      And if people with way too much money for their own good want to spend it taking trips into space, why stop them?

      I think the U.S. discovered the answer to that live on television the first time they tried to send a teacher into space.

  • There is no way Russia can afford something of this magnitude in their current state...
    • When Nasa called for design projects for the ISS, they got a few proposals, and they reduced the thing to basically two options: 1) building ISS at sea level, pack it up and ship it in 2 or 3 shuttles flights to deploy it, OR, 2) send it in kit using a hundred shuttle flights and build everything in orbit.

      The scientific advisors gave their opinion, option 1 was MUCH easier to do and MUCH cheaper, for the same result.


      It didn't justify a space shuttle.

      ISS (or more to the point, the way it is built) is solely a justification for the space shuttle. I have NO doubt that, if the russians were indeed going to make Mir2 (or whatever they call it), they would not make that kind of mistake precisely because they cannot afford it.

      In 10 years, Mir2 might be operational, and ISS might still suffer from budget cuts.

      Don't dismiss the idea just because they can't afford an ISS, that's like saying you cannot afford to buy a cesna because a boeing jumbojet costs so much.

      • ...Sounds like someone's been reading Zurbin :)

        (Actually, I like the guy)
      • When Nasa called for design projects for the ISS, they got a few proposals, and they reduced the thing to basically two options: 1) building ISS at sea level, pack it up and ship it in 2 or 3 shuttles flights to deploy it

        It is quite obvious that ISS is several orders of magnitude larger than anything the Shuttle can lift in its payload bay. To be specific, just MPLM alone - "a moving van" of the ISS - occupies most of the payload bay, and that MPLM is tiny compared to the rest of the station.

        Plan (1) is not technically possible - not because of weight but because of geometry of modules. Each of them is bigger than the Shuttle.

    • The hope is that this thing might, just might, start turning a profit, and quickly. Considering that Tito was willing to fight to spend $20M on his trip, I imagine they'll find some heavy investors to help.
  • At least MIR stayed up there for a good amount of time, and showed us the possibilities.

    Unfortunately, the end of the Cold War has hastened the demise of space exploration, probably because of the suits have overtaken the uniforms as the patron of the techie budget.

    What the Americans and Soviets could once do, a whole league of nations now struggle to do.

    {ahem}There was that User Friendly cartoon about "a new erosive force" on Mars{/ahem}

  • by bbh ( 210459 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @09:42PM (#2253984)
    Those numbers are highly speculative I would have to say. Energia is saying they can have it in orbit by 2004 at a cost of around 100 million dollars. If this was the case, instead of buying a trip on Mir (ended up being ISS) for 20 million I think Tito and a few friends simply would have bought there own space station in the sky. I remember Hilton Hotels were backing there own initiative to build there own hotel in space. Maybe these folks could get together and buy one together. Heres a link about Hilton Hotels discussing building a hotel in space [bbc.co.uk].

    All that said, when the opportunity presents itself, I'll be up there!


    • by Anonymous Coward
      100 mil is realistic considering the cost of the hardware. Plus the fact they will not need to use the bigger and more expensive proton booster. This looks small and doable.
  • seeing as how they don't seem to warmly welcome the idea of Russia bringing tourists onto the ISS every couple months. If Russia can build a commercial space station to cater to those who want to buy their way into space, it aleviates NASA from having to deal with the issue of tourists on the ISS. Like the article said, the ISS is for science, the new space station will be for vacationers.
    • NASA is not going to like this. It sounds like the plan is to rotate the ISS crew rescue Soyuz capsule through the commercial space station for a couple weeks before sending both it and its crew on to the ISS. The crew would then fly the "old" Soyuz to the ground. If this is the case, the ISS is essentially subsidizing this commercial venture at the cost of knocking two weeks of life off of each Soyuz rescue vehicle at the ISS (they are only good for 6 months). Secondly, the ISS still gets the unwanted visitors during at the Soyuz switchover, which is all that Dennis Tito was there for. Thirdly, NASA may feel that the Russians do not have adequate Soyuz production capacity to support the ISS let alone this venture. If the ISS Crew Rescue Vehicle gets the axe (as is the plan under the Administration's budget), then a 6-person crew on the ISS will require 2 Soyuz capsules for escape - doubling the number currently required. I hope that a commercial manned space venture of some type does succeed to break the governmental monopoly, but NASA and the other ISS partners are not going to be happy about this deal.
    • NASA has shown a total unwillingness to assist private space ventures in any way shape or form. While one might be tempted to ask why, considering it would be in the agency's best interest to "spread out the load" so to speak/ It is because allowing someone to do what they have done would be a disaster for them.

      Right now, nobody else is launching manned spacecraft or space stations. When NASA does, they ask for tons of money. It takes them forever to get anything done and they still cut corners like crazy - not in saftey, mind you....NASA have thankfully become safety freaks....but instead, they cut features, missions, R&D, etc.

      Look at how crippled the ISS is and compare it to what was origionally proposed and how much what we have cost us.

      Then, consider what a private consortium could offer for much, much less. A station that can have inhabitants who are not full time maintence workers, who have no time for any other meaningful activity (as with the ISS) can encourage further development in space (unlike the ISS, which will be the permanent space facility for the next two decades if NASA has their way) further exploration (unlike the ISS, where the upper regions of Earth's atmosphere can be explored again and again) can encourage further research (unlike the ISS, which will invent remarkable crystals and that's about it)

      NASA would have a hard time justifying its budget once a 3rd party station became operational. People would stop assuming "space costs that much" and start asking how effectively NASA spends their money and why the other guys can strech a buck much futher than the more experienced organization
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actully make money out of it. Hey no stupider than forming a linux distribution company.
  • Space tourism is clearly ready to become real. But I wonder if something a little less ambitious -- like, say, suborbital flights -- might not be a better place to start. And these "space hotel" stories have a history of being vapor.

    On the other hand, the ISS is so screwed up, it's hard to believe that someone couldn't do better.
  • As it should be! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @09:43PM (#2253996) Homepage
    The sad thing about space travel is that it is currently being used for science. Don't mistake me here though - I happen to think that science is the best possible use for space programs, if anything there is not enough money to go around for scientific research in any field.

    Currently, the only real "business" in putting things into space is in military hardware and communications satelites. If "big business" gets involved in space tourism, (and here is the key!) and space tourism becomes profitable, more advancements into space travel will be achived. It is ironic really, that profit will create a drive for better space accesability than research does.

    The more trips that there are into space, the more the process will become streamlined - and the greater the economic drive to make it less expensive to get people into space.

    And finally, just like the article mentions - space tourists coule cover much of the cost of space missions. This would allow for more research to take place in space.

    All in all. It is about time.

    Now if we were only able to put nuclear powered spaceships in space (such as the "Orion" design mentioned by Carl Sagan in Cosmos) and have craft capable of 1/10 the speed of light.

    Perhaps someday.
    • Now if we were only able to put nuclear powered spaceships in space (such as the "Orion" design mentioned by Carl Sagan in Cosmos) and have craft capable of 1/10 the speed of light.

      The Orion design, first thought of way back in the beginning of the space race, is nuclear propelled, not nuclear powered, per se. I imagine you could rig up some system to extract power from it, though. Problem is, it involves setting off nuclear weapons in space, which is generally frowned upon by politicians and the great unwashed. It also can't be used too near Earth because of those pesky EMP's. But for interplanetary propulsion, it's fantastic; far and away more efficient than any chemical drive could be.

      But I guarantee you, the vast majority of the population wouldn't let it happen. Just look at the uproar over Casini, which had an altogether puny amount of plutonium on it.
  • I'm amazed. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by piecewise ( 169377 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @09:46PM (#2254007) Journal
    I'm amazed that a country with NO money continually spends their debt on failing space programs, whereas a country with a high level of affluence and world influence shows continuing dis-interest in what its very own citizens realize as important, if not somewhat boring these days.

    Father: "I grew up in the space age."
    Son: "You mean that use to be a big thing? Ohhh..."

    Russia SHOULD rather be focusing on rebuilding their ruined country. A place where doctors are paid in trade by the government (salt, cow dung, whatever -- and no i'm not kidding). A place with an unstable government and a weak military. What is in space that they are after, exactly?

    Meanwhile, America should of course be embracing space more, but we're barely willing to increase NASA's budget beyond annual inflation.

    On the other hand, it looks like we won't even be able to afford a valuable education bill without dipping heavily into social security, so maybe space can wait.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Russia SHOULD rather be focusing on rebuilding their ruined country.

      Well wait a minute - maybe if they develop a lucrative commercial space program, they'll finally have the money to do just that.
    • Well, the government, IMHO, shouldn't be involved in education or health care, which is a large chunk of the annual budget. Even more than the military budget IIRC.

      I do think that NASA should remain government supported until it can be spun off and made self sufficient, like the post office, and they should recieve funding after that, for research and other things.

      The only things the government should do are the things that private industry can't do better, which isn't very much.
    • Agree that Russia has other things that it should be focusing it's attention on.

      But does anyone else see the supreme irony in what was once the foremost nation in the USSR being the first to establish a manned commercial presence in space while the American agency fights tooth and nail to keep from collecting $20M for babysitting Tito for a few days?
    • Re:I'm amazed. (Score:5, Informative)

      by styopa ( 58097 ) <hillsr@NospAM.colorado.edu> on Wednesday September 05, 2001 @01:18AM (#2254507) Homepage
      I just came back from a 9 week trip to Russia a little over a month ago. Yes, they have some severe economic problems, mostly stemming from corruption. The government needs to stamp out corruption within the country in order for an economy to thrive. Stamp out corruption and they would be fine, trust me.

      As for Russia throwing away its science programs, that is just plain dumb. They cannot afford to have another brain drain. Frankly, what space has is money. Tito payed $20 million dollars to go up in space for a while. If I remember correctly the Soyez space vehicle only takes roughly $10 million per launch. This is money in the pocket. Money desparately needed to fund other programs, education, military, science, you name it. Russia IS focusing on rebuilding their "ruined" country by focusing on space.

      Doctors are not paid in trade by the government anymore. There are not huge lines for buying food at markets. In fact I bought food at a fancy place called an univermag, which translates to supermarket, where they had everything that a US supermarket would have except for the automatic doors. Moscow looks as clean and modern, discounting the 14th-19th century architecture that seems randomly scattered about the city and the lack of a "sky line", as most of Denver. St. Petersburg is going through major restoration as they prepair for their 300th birthday in 2003. While I was there a good portion of the St. Petersburg lost hot water because they were fixing all of the pipes.

      Russia is focusing on rebuilding their country, and if it weren't for the corruption, they would be doing very well. People are working hard to try and get their country back on track. I am not surprised at how frustrated they get, and the drinking they do, when all of that hard work seems to be going nowhere as the ruble slips to the dollar weekly. They are hard working people, and smart people, they just don't have a handle on capitalism yet, nor have they eliminated the biggest problem that is preventing their economy from growing.

      I only wish that the US honored and reviered its scientists and poets as the Russians do. They continue to fund science because they know that when their economy turns around, their being on par, or slightly behind, the rest of the major economic players scientifically is going to be necessary. When their economy turns around they will be a major force quickly.
      • I have been visiting Russia (mostly St. Pete) over a four year period and have many close links there incl. a Russian wife. Yes, she has paid her doctor with coffee, but that was because her doctor is paid poorely from the state (but regularly) and does not accept payment from her patients (ethics is a disease there). Instead she supplements her meagre income with gifts from those that can contribute (it is optional).

        There are automatic doors at some of the supermarkets but not all. Stuff like this doesn't like delta-Ts of 50 degrees C acrosss the mechanism. If a spring and muscle power works, why bother with reducing the reliability! That is the Russian approach.

        The thing with the hot water in St. Pete is due to the district heating system used there and every year, a part of the city is turned off in summer for maintenance. Most modernised appartemnts have an independent supply because of this.

        I would agree about corruption being a major problem, but more and more people are becoming dissatisfied with the greedy cops and bureaucrats.The major corporate interests own the law (we are talking about Russia here not a certain Russian programmer on an extended stay in the US), but smaller companies are generally ok.

      • While I was there a good portion of the St. Petersburg lost hot water because they were fixing all of the pipes.

        This can be unclear to some readers. In many western countries (like USA?) the city only provides cold water, and homeowners have to heat it themselves (in water heaters).

        In Russia, however, the city typically provides both cold and hot water. The hot water is fed into water taps and is also used for heating in winter. During summer the hot water pipelines are normally inspected and tested, this is planned well ahead.

    • Most of the responses to this post focused on Russia. OTOH, I'd like to focus on the US, for a moment.

      At the risk of using the Bible as an historical reference, I'll go ahead and say that the nation of Israel endured every hardship but one, and kept the proverbial British stiff upper lip (How's that for an anachronism?) about it. The one hardship they never managed to handle was affluence. Through the whole Bible, no matter how bad things were, they bounced back. But once things got good, they fell apart within a few generations.

      We're too affluent for our own good in the US. Not to pick on movies exclusively, but let's do that, for one example. Today's movies cost tens of millions to make, and are considered flops if they don't break the hundred million mark. What? ONE SINGLE MOVIE is talking the kind of money that Russians use to mount a significant space effort. I'd say our priorities are a bit more fouled than theirs.

      Then look at the amount of money going into illegal drugs in the US. Then the amount of money we spend fighting the drug war. Then the amount of money lost in "crimes of financing" illegal drugs. Then the amount of money spent in cleaning up the human misery of drugs.

      Then look at the only nation where we're working on 'non-nutritional food', so people can keep feeding out-of-control overactive appetites and worry less about gaining weight. Then look at the medical expense of our national obesity and couch-potatohood.

      We waste more money that it takes Russia to run a space program.

      We entertain ourselves with so much money that Russia could rebuild their whole nation, and put in gold faucets.

      We destroy ourselves...blah, blah, blah

      Russia recognizes that space expertise is one of their key national treasures, and a source of national pride. It's something they can respectably sell. Someone else has said this, but it's sufficiently important to repeat. At the moment, Russia needs pride more than any single piece of infrastructure.
  • Newsflash. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mr_Icon ( 124425 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @09:51PM (#2254026) Homepage

    Newsflash: intriguing new results of a survey indicate that /. audience is not at all uniformly white, protestant, and american, as it was being envisioned by the editors.

    "It was a real eye-opener," says Hemos, one of the members of the editing staff, "to realize that some of my dumber comments can be perceived as offensive in some other parts of the world."

    "Of course," he added after a bit of thought. "Not like we care about those unwashed filthy pigs in their silly little countries, anyway."

  • One thing that I havn't seen mentioned recently in regards to the idea of space tourism is saftey. Obviously, there is inherent danger in shooting oneself into space, but how long will it be before the FAA is the FASA (Federal Air and Space Administration)?
  • USA should be doing this. this could be a big business. the plan looks pretty feasible (not sure of the numbers though) but there are many ppl out there who're ready to pay huge amounts of money for a visit to the stars.
    Instead of depending on the govt for grants, NASA should also start a commercial wing to cater to space tourists and use the profits for further exploration. This way they won't have to stall or cancel their projects just cuz the govt doesn't like it or doesn't want to fund it.
  • Ya know, lots of people will say (and are saying here already ;-) that Russia can't afford it. Well, they are probably right.

    But, damnit - I wanna see it happen! I want to see tourism in space, I want to see commerical enterprises get a chance to really have some room to try and make use of a space station. Movies made in space, what have you. I want to see it ALL happen.

    Why? Because if one group - ANY GROUP - shows that it's possible to make a profit putting people up in space either through tourism or what have you, it's going to open up so many doors*. I'd love to see VC's getting as excited over space travel and space stations as they did DotComs. Granted, the stakes are probably a bit higher, and not as many VC's will be able to afford the investment. But if it gets started, there will be those who innovate, and find better ways of getting from 'here' to 'there'. The leap to things like colonizing the moon (yuck - not THAT attractive, but kinda cool) becomes a lot shorter.

    (* - Yes, I know. Even if they put something up there doesn't mean it's going to be profitable. But if Russia can dream of putting up a station and mostly supporting it on tourism and such, well, I can dream of the idea of it actually being PROFITABLE :-)

    • Frankly I think Russia might just be able to afford this one. They're keeping the design very simple. The picture shown on spacedaily.com shows one module that's smaller than the ISS Svezda (zvezda?) service module (not the FGB).

      I think making movies in space is overrated. Movie sets require actual open space to film, and staff on hand. For Ministation 1 we're talking three people max, at least one of which has to be a Soyuz pilot, a max of 20 days, and habitable volume comparible to a minivan. That just doesn't sound realistic for making movies to me.

      But space tourism, fuck yeah I'd go. Hell, I want to do it badly enough to try out what that guy in oregon is doing. [space.com] Don't laugh at me, I was born and raised in Oregon, so maybe it's the air and greenery that implants insane desires.
  • by dragons_flight ( 515217 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @09:59PM (#2254054) Homepage
    I tried submitting information on just this issue several hours ago and it got rejected. Anyway here's the scoop I had.

    MirCorp [mirstation.com], despite the ditching of their namesake, is still in the business of space tourism. They have proposed a new space station [mirstation.com] dubbed "Mini Station 1", which would house 3 space tourists for upto 20 days at a time. They hope to make a commercial venture of it through corporate endorsements and giving clients with ultra deep pockets an out of this world vacation. This news story [yahoo.com] gives additional response from the Russian Space Agency and the spacecraft builder Energia.
    • I think being in space would be sweet believe me but 20 days?

      Honestly the views are wonderful but I would think I would get bored up there after a while. Watching the same damn view out of my hotel window would piss me off day after day for 20 days. There is absolutely nothing to do up there after the first few hours.

      I say that we develop weightlessness stations on Earth and allow the scenery to change. That would be cool.

      Well unless they let us do space walks :)
      • Don't know about you, but 20 days up there would be perfect.

        All i would need is a teliscope, binocolars, food, bathroom and some music...

        Wouldn't be enough time to study the heavons without the bluryness of the atmosphere, wouldn't be enough time to aww at the planet under you. Wouldn't be enough time to let your imagination consume you.

        But it would be a blast, and far from boring.
  • This is all about some yahoos in Russia looking to get their hands on a pot of money - not money from "space tourists", but contracts to build such a space station.

    Of course, $100 million can't build a space station. But lots of people would love to get their hands on a percentage of $100 million.

    Therefore, the Russian advocates. But let's be real - except through gross mismanagement, this will never ever happen. It could only happen in the US, where corporate interests dictate government spending. Of course there is no need for such a project in the US - the government hands out thousands of $100 million contracts to "defense contractors" every year.
  • by Bitsy Boffin ( 110334 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @10:01PM (#2254063) Homepage
    This fits with the speculation that the Buran [k26.com] fleet of shuttles (actually only the first of the Russian shuttles is named Buran, but it has become the defacto name for the fleet) will soon be de-mothballed and brought into service [space.com] (at least numbers 1 and probably 2, the rest are incomplete). The AN225 is now back flying in active service, this is the largest flying aircraft currently, and was designed specifically for transport of the Buran.

    The runway at Baikonur has just been refurbished, this is the runway that was built specifically for the Buran and AN225.

    Reportadly Buran is virtually ready to fly with very little work, strap on an Energia and boosters roll her out to the pad and jump on in.

    • The real big deal is not the possibility of the Buran shuttle flying again, but rather its launcher, the Energia.

      The biggest difference between the design of the Soviet shuttle and the American shuttle is that on the Soviet shuttle, the main engines are not located on the back of the shuttle, but rather on the bottom of the main fuel tank. Thus, the main fuel tank is actually a standalone heavy-lifter rocket that can also have a shuttle and up to 8 liquid-fueled boosters strapped to it. This heavy-lifter rocket is called Energia.

      The interesting thing is, you can use Energia without the Buran shuttle. In this configuration, it can lift 100 tons into orbit in one shot, which is five times the payload of the US space shuttle. If they chose to do so, it could lift their station in one shot.

      If one uses Energia without the boosters, it also qualifies as a single-stage-to-orbit rocket, though I'm not sure what its payload would be in that configuration. This is more of an interesting piece of trivia than anything important, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

      Jon Acheson
  • Sex and technology just plain go together. Videos, Cdrom's, DVD's, and the internet itself have all had their substantial infusion of cash flow from the porn market. And when people get bored with the idea of having sex in 0 g's we can start promoting sex on the moon -- acrobatic sex with only a fraction of the earth's gravity.
  • Now that would be something interesting. And even given Russia's economically dim future, it's the one *ridiculous* thing that could actually happen.

    Hey, if you think Russia can't get the money to do stuff like that anymore, you are mistaken.

    There's an endless supply of rouge entities more than wealthy enough, and certainly willing enough, to purchase every old and dusty Russian rocket or jet [or warhead] that Putin decides is expendable.

    Russia doesn't want or need another MIR. But considering the flippant way in which Dubya keeps yapping about missile defense systems, abolishing the START treaty, and testing nukes again [etc.] -- I'm sure Putin would love watching Dubya's reaction to such an announcement on CNN:

    [Dubya scratching head] "Hell, I guess they need another one, right? That other one --the uh, MIRROR orbital-- didn't even come close to hitting the Taco Bell thing floating out in the Atlanta Ocean! [haha]"

  • Did anybody else read "on boats" as "on board" the first time? I was starting to think Hemos was a little sick in the head when I realized it was myself. To much IRC has tained my thought process I guess.
  • I think they should get into the business of crashing space stations into the Pacific, and bringing tourists on boats to watch the fireworks.

    Didn't their last station stay up longer than ours? And weren't they able to make some money off of it? Geez, NASA should be happy to have such a track record.

  • Don't be so cocky... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PsychoKick ( 97013 )
    The Russians have forgotten more about practical long-term space travel than NASA ever knew. Considering all the factors working against it, Mir was a huge resounding success for remaining functional so long past its original design specs. If NASA is truly dedicated to being "faster, cheaper, better", then they would do well to study and learn as much as possible from Russians designs and techniques.
    • by Col. Klink (retired) ( 11632 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @10:43PM (#2254143)
      Reminds me of the story of the "space pen". At the dawn of the space age, astronauts needed the ability to write in zero gravity environments. The trouble is that the ball point pen needs gravity to work. NASA spent a million bucks (in the 1960s, when that was still a lot) developing the "space pen" which can write in space (or upside down back here on Earth).

      Facing the same problem, the Soviets used pencils.
      • NASA didn't spend a dime developing it. A private company paid the R&D for it. I wonder if they've sold enough of those pens in NASA gift shops to recoup the costs?
      • by FTL ( 112112 )
        > Reminds me of the story of the "space pen".

        > [...]

        > Facing the same problem, the Soviets used pencils.

        For the first few missions, yes. Then the Soviets went to Fisher [spacepen.com] (the American company that made the pens) and bought several cases. The reason is that pencils produce a lot of graphite dust. When you are locked in a room the size of a telephone booth for a week, you don't want graphite dust floating around, getting into your lungs, eyes and your equipment.

        • ... and finally they've copied the design and built their own clones.

          I remember buying such a clone of the "Shuttle" pens in Kiev in 1988, indeed it was working upside down. However, it has the distinctive quality attributes of Soviet consumer-grade stuff...
      • by Jasonv ( 156958 )
        Urban Lengend [snopes.com]

        To sumarise, NASA needed a pen that wouldn't:

        Burn in 100% oxygen atmosphere
        Would work in a vacuum
        Work under zero-G
        Could work in +150c and -120c

        Prior to using the pen, the Americans also used pencils. Pencils had problems with the tips breaking off, which could be a hazard.

        In December of 1967 Paul C. Fisher, the inventer of the pen, sold 400 of them to NASA for $2.95 each.
        • In December of 1967 Paul C. Fisher, the inventer of the pen, sold 400 of them to NASA for $2.95 each.

          And now, for some silly reason, they think they can get $40.00 a pop [spacepen.com] (!) for them.
          • I have one of those $40.00 Apollo Program pens, and it's a thing of beauty. All brass construction, no plastic, hard-chromed on the outside. As soon as you take it apart, you can tell where the money went. And, it writes really well, too.

            Figure it falls into the same category as a Mount Blanc pen or some such thing. I'm happy with mine. It goes better with a suit than a Bic would when I have the need to dress up.

            Oh, and in 1967, how much did a car cost? $6,000.00?

            Jon Acheson
  • SpaceDaily's story [spacedaily.com]

    They explain some of the logistics, such as making the commercial station a stopover point for soyuz taxi flights to the ISS to save launch costs.
  • "I think they should get into the business of crashing space stations into the Pacific, and bringing tourists on boats to watch the fireworks."

    If you're talking about the MIR station, let me tell you it excedeed it's time of service, and the last thing I heard, it outlasted the Skylab, now that's a failure.

    Stop adding this kind of "humor" to the articles, it demeans the audience as stupid in history. At least I hope there are not many who thinks about MIR like you...

    On the other hand, I hope this news is not true, the people of Russia has more pressing things to worry about. But if they want, they can pull it off, I'm sure of it.
    • Right on.

      Every time Mir is mentioned on Slashdot there's approximately 1 gajillion posts that attempt humor by mentioning the problems Mir had later in life.

      These jokes might be funny but for the fact that, as you mentioned, Mir outlived its original time of service by about a decade and in that time became one of the most highly successful space projects of all time.

    • I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean when you say that Skylab wasn't successful.

      Skylab was highly successful, especially considering the damage it sustained during launch. Skylab was intended to support three missions only, which it did very well. After the last crew left, the station continued to function as an automated scientific platform until re-entry in July of 1979.

      Its re-entry was unplanned, and was caused by atmospheric drag caused by the exceptionally high sunspot activity at that time (the sun was at the peak of its 11 year cycle). The increased expansion of the atmosphere was not calculated correctly (ever tried to calculate the expansion of trillions of square meters of a gaseous mixture?) Because Skylab was in a Low-Earth Orbit, the greatly expanded atmosphere created drag which eventually brought the station down.

      The Russians had the same problem with Mir concerning atmospheric expansion, but they could easily boost the station to a higher orbit. In 1979, the US didn't have an active spacecraft capable of docking with Skylab to boost its orbit. The Apollo/Saturn V had been retired, and the shuttle wasn't ready for launch until 1981.

      In fact, one of Columbia's first missions was supposed to have been to boost the Skylab to a higher orbit. The station didn't have engines powerful enough to handle that task. Skylab was huge (I believe it was built from the third stage of a Saturn V rocket), and it wasn't originally intended to last more than 10 years, so a complex orbital-manuvering system wasn't installed, just smaller thrusters for attitude correction. If I recall correctly, Mir didn't have the ability to do a great deal of orbital manuvering either. Whenever the Russians need to boost Mir's orbit, they used the big engines on a Soyuz or Progress spacecraft that was docked to the station.

      Besides, the purpose of a space station is to act as a living space for astronauts/cosmonauts. Why waste all that critically valuable space on an engine that won't get used very often, and the fuel needed to operate it? Wouldn't be pragmatic.

      All in all, with the exception of the atmosperic expansion that cause the unplanner re-entry, Skylab's mission was a complete success.
    • Yes, its performance was impressive, as was skylab's. The crew with Alan Bean set a record for crew task performance that took a loooooong time to match.

      And they all fall down eventually.

      However, the Skylab crews didn't punch a hole in their own craft by joyriding around it in a return vehicle. Let the jokes fly.

      • However, the Skylab crews didn't punch a hole in their own craft by joyriding around it in a return vehicle. Let the jokes fly.

        Give MIR's designers and builders some credit: Their creation gave fifteen years of service. The average American can't even keep a car running for fifteen years, and this in an environment where you don't need a space suit to change the oil.

  • are they going to not let americans on or only when supervised? I think it is childish to think that we can't just get along with Russia.....
  • ...is breathtaking to watch. All the little slash-weenies lining up to attack the idea. How dare those damn Russians do anything that isn't being done in the United States! Somebody should stop them in case they're better at it than we are!

    It's a pretty revolting spectacle, really.

  • I think that maybe starting off a little bit Slower is a more sustainable plan. Unfortunatly alot of the people in my generation look to the generation before us As the ones that were the ultimate in selfish... "there parents gave them the moon, and they didn't care". Few people realize hoe much the space program has benifited us. How many times do we watch the news and wonder "GEE how can they forcast the weather like that", Or use our GPS units and wonder WOW how did that happen?.... I think that having a space station is great But lets show BIG corp's that there IS MONEY in space (if nothing more than /.'s running fron katz) And make it sustainable. A GREAT fiction novel was written about this possibility. http://www.panix.com/~dgh/Flynn_FIRESTAR.html
  • QUOTE>>I think they should get into the business
    crashing space stations into the Pacific, and bringing tourists on boats to watch the fireworks.

    If space is ever to be a real business, rather than a gold-plated, national vanity project, the craft are going to have to be built cheaply, and last a long time. And, to ME, all the MIR experience of trying to keep an old craft in the air, with repairs, and fungus and all that will be invaluable in the future. That is to avoid new stations with the same problems, and to develop a sense of how to deal with these problems.

    I say, the Russians should go for it. This is a big project and expensive and ambitions, but I think it might be just what they need -- to get a little sense of national pride back. And, it's a way to build some national pride, without building bombs and armys. It is just what they need.

  • I started out with a good laugh, but finished by scratching my head and wondering if they really could do this.

    The Russians are cash-strapped and they have always been short of certain technologies, like up-to-date computers. They are, however, masters at cost-effective space programs and re-using hardware for different purposes. Think of the Progress cargo ship, which is little more than a re-arranged Soyuz.

    Big-dollar NASA could never pull something like this off. Years of "making do" might enable the Russians to succeed.
  • "Clever" comments (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Legion303 ( 97901 )
    I think they should get into the business of crashing space stations into the Pacific, and bringing tourists on boats to watch the fireworks.

    Hemos, do yourself a favor and stop adding pithy comments to stories when you obviously have no clue what the fuck you're talking about. It's embarassing to everyone who does.

    Many others have pointed out that MIR has outlived everything we put up so far. Please keep ignorance to yourself and keep this a pure news site, OK? Thanks.


    • I think they should get into the business of crashing space stations into the Pacific, and bringing tourists on boats to watch the fireworks.

      Hemos, do yourself a favor and stop adding pithy comments to stories when you obviously have no clue what the fuck you're talking about. It's embarassing to everyone who does.

      Didja ever think that maybe he's just making a non-sequitur about the spectacle of Mir coming down in the ocean?

      Many others have pointed out that MIR has outlived everything we put up so far. Please keep ignorance to yourself and keep this a pure news site, OK? Thanks.

      OK, since we're dealing with ignorance and not knowing what the fuck one is talking about, please point out where in Hemos' comment he was disparaging the Russian space program.

      Tell ya what; since you're a logged-in user, use your user preferences [slashdot.org] and block any stories submitted by Hemos, so that your oh-so delicate sensibilities aren't damaged any further by his "ignorant" comments.

      Or better yet, stop telling Hemos (y'know, the Jeff of "Rob and Jeff, the Slashdot founders") how he should use his own creation and take your eyeball impressions elsewhere.

      My God, but the whining has been turned up to 11 on Slashdot recently. Are people's lives so vacant that they really have nothing better to do with their lives than reload the front page of /. so they can post about how much they hate it? Just about every discussion thread on here in recent memory has been filled with comments about how the site sucks, the editors suck, the readers suck, the moderation sucks (speaking of moderation sucking -- flying off the handle on Hemos rates an "Insightful"? *wonder*), the story submissions suck, VA Linux sucks, blah blah BLAH blah blah, yet all of you whiners are still here, reading day after day.

      The code is available, the audience is there, maybe some of you should stand up and lead the way instead of being armchair quarterbacks; roll your own Slash-based site (or Scoop-based site [kuro5hin.org], if that's your thing) and show us how it should be done.

      Jay (=
  • This is decidedly not your middle-class family's average day trip. I'm thinking more along the lines of wealthy, old retirees, who feel the need to spend millions on space tourism. Perhaps this would be a better idea after designing cheaper space travel.
    • No it isn't. But then again, a trip with a large family to Europe (from the US that is) would cost a pretty penny too. I think its a great idea and I envy Tito. I look forward to having that much money so I can go into space. Course by then we'll have a space vehicle that can make daily round trips...
  • In the former Soviet Union, access to space is for sale to anyone who can cough up enough cash. Meanwhile in the capitalist stonghold of the USA, space is restricted to an elite corps of individuals deemed "worthy" by the government.

    Of course, congressmen like John Glenn can hitch a ride whenever they like. It makes for great footage on CNN. The Proles just eat that stuff up.
  • I was watching a pbs special about how the russian airforce allows tourists to fly thier planes, so pilots can get in basic air combat training. 1K a pop, and you too can fly a mig.

    Hell, even Chuck Norris even owns a chain of casinos in Russia.

  • The idea of using spent Space Shuttle fuel tanks is not new. It was once considered by Nasa as the basis for its own space station. However it was discarded as being too simple.

    Now that's an engineering point of view if I've ever seen one.

    "Ideas anyone?"
    "Hmm we could just use the spent fuel tanks from the Shuttle."
    "Yeah that would be great, and really easy!"
    "I don't know, it's pretty simple."
    "Yeah I agree. Any other, more complicated, ideas?"

    (From this [bbc.co.uk] article, posted here earlier.)
  • I think they should get into the business of crashing space stations into the Pacific, and bringing tourists on boats to watch the fireworks.

    It would be a hell of a lot cheaper to fudge it with a few old ICBMs. And with the added accuracy, they oculd bring them down anywhere they want! Just think of the possibilities- they could have themed space station-crash cruises all over the world, not to mention all the murchandising rights, etc. And when someone blows it, they could find a way to sue them under the DMCA.


  • How's this: Cosmic Golf.

    The Russians sned up a whole lot of satellites that have some maneuvrability, then let people control their descent back to Earth.

    There would have to be limits on this, or otherwise private school playgrounds could get nasty.

    e.g. "My Dad can drop an asteroid on your Dad, so nyah!"
  • I'd certainly like to comment about SkyLab - although noting someone else has made the comment, I feel more should be said.

    It's wonderfully arrogant to make fun of something that not only lasted three times longer than it was projected to because your country can afford better - but then to happily forget your attempt at a space station was a complete embaressment?

    Mir falling into the Pacific?
    How about SkyLab screwing up, the evac of Astronauts and then falling out of the sky and landing ON Australia (in fact, missing a pub by 25').

    When America can do it, they can comment. Until then, buck up.

    (And no, I'm not Russian in the slightest.)
    • anything falling on Australia is probably going to land within 25' of a pub anyway :))

      But seriously you are spot on, Mir a success, Skylab a failure.

      The first man in space was Russian. The first woman in space was Russian way back in early 1960's, NASA has always been vague as to why it took 20 years more it to allow a woman in space, methinks macho military elitism felt threatened.

      Even the wonder of the moon landings degenerated into farce with golf clubs and dune buggies for the lil boys. Such a shame, the pinnacle of human science eroded by a boys own club.
    • Please see my earlier comment concerning Skylab [slashdot.org].

      Also, the astronauts were never evacuated from Skylab. The last Skylab crew left in 1974 after spending 84 days in orbit. Skylab didn't re-enter until July 11, 1979. The station maintained its ability to support life until re-entry.

      Landed on Australia? Yep, sure did. How about the Russian Cosmos satellite? Unplanned re-entry, landed in Canada, and its power supply was a couple of pounds of uranium. I'd say that's a bit more dangerous than landing 25 feet from a pub.

      Simply put, the Americans can do it. You may also want to remember that America has sent four spacecraft to tour the outer planets (Pioneer 10 & 11, Voyager 1 & 2). As far as I know, Russia has not. And, of those four deep-space probes, three are still transmitting.

      It strikes me as very interesting that people insist that the Skylab project was a failure because it came down two years earlier than originally intended. Skylab performed her mission completely, and was set in a low-power state when the last crew left. Skylab's job was done, and at the time, NASA did not intend on sending any more crews to the station.

      You may also want to remember that Mir was supposed to last only 5 years. I'm very impressed that the Russians made her last 11 years, however, I wonder if they would have done that had the 1991 revolution never occurred. I suspect not; the Russians probably would have retired the Mir far earlier than they did, and would have put a newer station into orbit to take Mir's place.

      Skylab was a success. Mir was an exceptional success. To say otherwise about either space station is foolish.

  • The new space station, Mini Station...

    [puts pinky finger in corner of mouth]

    I shall call it... Mini Station!

  • by PatJensen ( 170806 ) on Wednesday September 05, 2001 @12:33AM (#2254399) Homepage
    I think all this jibber-jabber about space stations is pretty cool. I'm jazzed that the US was able to actually work with other countries to build a "space outpost" to conduct science and research.

    I'm all down for the commercial modernization though, like having 8 space port doors to pull up some space busses, like a big Boeing 877 space bus, and the McDonalds and Wendy's module.

    When we get tired of doing research, take a quick spin (literally) to the Blockbuster Module and rent some DVDs. I'd like to see how they keep the movies on the shelves from spinning. They could also have night clubs and stuff to party and get yo' groove on.

    They could even build station interconnects, so that you can link Russian and US stations together. So you can vacation on the other station when you run out of entertainment. But definitely, they should have some type of "shell" module that companies could buy to run their own consumer businesses in space.

    Museums, hotels.. all the stuff to make an interesting time. And you'd have to have some satellite TV to watch (can you get DirecTV from the space station? guess you'd need a special dish) No casinos, because you wouldn't want to be broke on a space station. Pay up or Vinny will shoot your ass out the bathroom hatch.

    OK, I guess I'll lay off the crack now.


  • by manon ( 112081 )
    I think this is rather sad news. ISS is up there, I don't see the need for Russia to give away more money for it's own space station.
    They should get the country back together first. They are still recovering.
  • I thought they would call it the Satellite of Love? Besides, what are the tourists going to do on their 20 day stay asides from watch movies, and play with Manos, the hands of fate?
  • But not right now or even in a near future. Russia is too poor and too unstable to achieve something like this. They should concentrate on getting their eceonomy and society in working order before they even consider spending any money they don't have.
  • It would be great if they sent up a replica of the Russian refueling station in the movie Armageddon, complete with dirty walls, leaky plumbing and cigarette-smoking fuel attendant who doesn't give a rip. I'd pay big rubles to visit an attraction like that.
  • Economics lesson (Score:2, Insightful)

    by beardcz ( 464279 )
    Russia needs to build up her economy, what better way to invest in a field in which Russia is an acknowledged world leader - durable space station construction.

    Just because NASA can't or won't build it doesn't mean that it won't be profitable. The only way I'm getting into space (and let's face it, many of us would like a shot at seeing the Earth from a new perspective) is as a paying customer, and there are enough people with enough money to afford it.

    Russia needs capital to build it's economy. If they charge $10 million a trip (monopoly prices), they can send up a few tourists at a time and their profit margin is pretty high. Do you realize the quantity of vodka they have to export to earn that much foreign currency?
  • This "mini station" could be actually be constructed quite cheaply, say $100Mil. The russians could even use some of the old Almaz station shells that they have stored in a warehouse somewhere. (They had hoped to sell them off as big, unmanned radar imaging stations, but that didn't come to much). There not as big, but since all they need are 3 bedrooms and minimal life support, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

    For short missions, they shouldn't need all that bulky excerise equipment either.

    Since there wont be many things docked to them (unlike MIR), they can save money by only having 2 or 3 docking ports and mechanisms, instead of the 6 that were on the MIR core module.

    Since they will only be used for short missions, (3 people at a time for less than 20 days), the life support systems can be fairly minimal. They won't really need water recyling systems since they can carry enough water with them. They can also bring their own oxygen supply (either compressed, or in perchorlate form), so a oxygen generator ("Electron") wont be needed. (Which needs a lot of power)
    They can also bring enough Lithium Hydroxide Canisters with them to scrub the carbon dioxide, so they wont need the "Vosduka" C02 scrubbers either.

    Since there wont be any power hungery science equipment on there, (or the "Electron" oxygen generator), the electrical drain will be lower, so there wont be as much need for acres of solar panels or huge heavy batteries.

    So, Budget another $50Mil for a proton launch, and there's your economy size station.
  • Should venture capitalists :

    A Dump their money into web sites run by people with absolutely no experience at anything other than Quake, with no financial plan other than "we will make some money someday" and absolutely no means of generating revenue, or any ideas about how to go about doing so and no particular motivation to figure one out...


    B Invest in a new field, where along with the considerable risks and investment needed, people are making serious cash already and their are limitless oppertnities and significant demand?
  • As a small, only temporary manned outpost, this station could actually be used to produce better science, at least in the area of migrogravity crystalography or metalurgy. The main requrement for this type of research is the best possible microgravity enviornment. MIR was ok, and the ISS will be better but the problem with these stations is that they are manned, and people make noise and vibrations. The crew have to excerise for hours each day, pumps have to run for the life support, thrusters have to fire to maintain a favourable orbit, and other ships are docking and undocking to bring supplies and take away trash. Not to mention astronauts/cosmonauts drifting into the walls and flushing the toilet!

    However, this proposed small station would be unmanned for most of the year, hence no people moving around and less need for fans and pumps to be running to clean the muck out of the air. The station could be left in a 'free drift' mode for months on end, avoiding the need for thruster firings. If the solar panels are big enough and there are enough batteries, it wouldnt be as critical to keep grinding the solar panels around to catch the sun all the time.

    So, what the scientists could do is give the 'visiting crew' some equipment such as a microgravity metalurgy furnace (or send it up beforehand in a progress cargo ship). The visiting crew would then spend their 2 week holiday or whatever looking out the window, then set up the equipment and experments and leave. Once they hade left (and moved to the ISS or back to earth or wherever), ground control would power down the nonessintial, noisy equipment on the station and activate the experment. It would be left running, quietly, for several months during which it would grow perfect crystals or whatever the experment was. The next visiting crew would then retrieve the results, and bring them away with them (possibly droping them off on the ISS for a smother ride home on the next space shuttle).

    Incidently, the original plan for the european space station module, the Columbus Lab. was very similar to this. It would undock and dock to the ISS, so it could run its experments quietly well away from human noise. Of course, cutbacks and politics killed that idea.

    Unmanned spacecraft will almost always give you a better science enviorment, once you have good remote control and robitic systems. They are also much cheaper. NASA knows this, but it's raison d^etre is manned spaceflight, nothing else really gets the tv coverage, and unfortunaly even that is minimal at the best of times.
  • This could be better for science than ISS. Think about it, you can go to ISS and spend half your time maintaining the stupid thing, but the odds of Nasa selecting your project to go are pretty low. (Assuming you go with, or it is big)

    alternativly you buy a ticket from the russians from your grant, and spend all your time on research because the hotel staff is taking care of maintance. And because they want to make a profit and be touristy friendly you are likely to get up there within a reasonable amount of time.

  • "I think they should get into the business of crashing space stations into the Pacific, and bringing tourists on boats to watch the fireworks."

    A: Russia had a station there for twice the projected lifetime.

    B: Russia produced the first true "permanent" spacestation - Salyut 7. Mir is in fact the second such station.

    C: Russia had several spacestations. The first was Salyut 1 and was set up in the beginning of the 70's. America only one of its own...

    D: To bring up Alpha, after years of rumbling with Congress, funds and a failed spacestation, NASA had to recur to Russia to bring up the backbone of the future station.

    E: When new/old NASA administration started to show that they may drastically cut funds for ISS, Russia came up with the purposal of getting the main bulk of development.

    Yes Russia is short of money and had many oops in its space development. But even having its pockets rotten, it does not quit Space and tries to keep things up. In fact Russia has been always living with rotten pockets. However, it sent the first stuff and people to Space and it was first on reaching other planets. Besides it is the ONLY ONE country having a permanent presence on what concerns spacestations. Don't forget - Alpha lives thanks to the Russian backbone...
  • As reported [en.rian.ru] by Russian Information Agency Novosti (News):
    In Russia, priority is assigned to the state federal programme of space research and meeting goals of the national Defense Ministry. As to other projects, Rosaviakosmos can consider them and submit for government approval only if these projects are expedient, economically feasible and rely on financial backing.
  • Its not the Russian state space agency that is considering building this, it is MirCorp. Not the same thing. MirCorp is a private corporation, based in the Netherlands. Basically, they had an agreement with the Ruskies to keep the money rolling to bankroll Mir and keep it in orbit, but didn't make the cut.

    Now they're talking with Energia about a cooperative, commercial space station for tourists. MirCorp would fund it, not the Russian state.

    This is real funny though. NASA is sitting with its thumbs up its arse. If NASA won't talk with private industry about doing these sorts of innovative, adventurous, GROUNDBREAKING projects, then the Russians will. More power to the Russians. Go, comrade.

  • Once again Slashdot falls for news-by-press-release. You'd think they'd learn, but Nooooo.

    The Russian government is not spending money on a new space station. The Russian space agency RSA is not a party to this new agreement, which is between Energia (think the Russian Boeing) and MirCorp (an Energia front based in Europe). RSA has agreements with NASA (not worth much, to be sure) that ensure certain levels of service, module completion, and station resupply. This agreement casts doubt on those agreements largely because RSA is a powerless liaison office compared to the mighty Energia. This may well put pressure on Russia to meet its ISS agreements, which will be solved by more creative accounting to funnel money to Energia, but make no mistake about who's in charge here.

    If this study ... just a study ... comes to anything, it will be once again a way to funnel Western hard currency to Energia, money that will never touch Russian soil, but be held safely in European banks. Sadly, there's probably a heavy kickback/corruption component as well, as numerous investigations have shown that Western aid to Russia doesn't, well, all get there. NASA and the US have (unfortunately) no interest in pursuing corruption in ISS monies because of the political fallout (all they could do would be to punish Russia by closing the spigot, but given current dependence on Soyuz lifeboats and Progress supply runs, that would mean shutting down ISS).

    I'm sure that Energia will do whatever it can to stay alive, but nobody should mistake Energia's interests for anybody else's but Energia's. They're a hard-nosed corporation, closely held, probably endemically corrupt at the highest levels. This will keep the technicians and engineers all of us here admire from selling their shoes at a street market, but it won't enrich them.

    IF any of this happens. Given previous vaporware from the steam baths that are MirCorp, I'd put money down that it won't.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann