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Space Station Crew Forced to Cut Calories 434

gollum123 writes "CNN and others are reporting that food is running so low aboard the international space station that both the crew members have been asked to cut their calories, at least until a Russian supply ship arrives in a little over two weeks. The situation is so bad that if a Russian cargo vessel scheduled to arrive on Dec. 25 has a mishap or is significantly delayed, the astronauts, one American and one Russian, will have to abandon the station and return home months ahead of schedule. An independent team is looking into how the food inventory ended up being tracked so poorly and how it can be improved in the future."
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Space Station Crew Forced to Cut Calories

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  • by CodeWanker ( 534624 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:43AM (#11049947) Journal
    This could be the final straw for the ISS boondoggle. You can't do astronomy from the station that's even a tenth of the precision of Hubble. Why? All the vibrations from all the environmental gear. In fact, you can't do decent science experiments [] of any type. Why? Two people can't take time from just holding the place together to do the experiments, and we lack the budget (and now - the food!) to have a big enough crew to make the place something other than a multi-billion-dollar Astronaut Habitrail. [] Right now, it's no better than Mir was in its final days: astronauts spend all their time trying not to die. '"At present, the primary goal of the ISS is unclear," the NRC study observes.' I think it's dangerously close to changing from an investment to a sunk cost.
  • Re:Sick joke... (Score:3, Informative)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @06:54AM (#11049989) Homepage
    No...fricking moron.

    Q: Why do they only drink Sprite at NASA?

    A: Because they can't get 7-Up!

    And the Challenger didn't go up, it went down. Fuck dude...get it straight. The Iraqi Information Minister's second cousin was more funny than you.

  • by Wudbaer ( 48473 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:03AM (#11050024) Homepage
    It's hard enough getting cats into a pen, it's that much harder to get countries known for 'cutting corners' (like Russia) to do their job correctly.

    Without the corner-cutting Russians they would have to wait for the next Space Shuttle for food... could be a long hungry wait. (yes, I know that they have a Soyus capsule for emergencies, which incidentially also is Russian).

  • by Shinobi ( 19308 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:15AM (#11050070)
    Actually, 3000 calories sounds pretty normal for very fit people in somewhat difficult conditions. Remember, the average male(on a global scale, not just the industrialized, lazy parts of the world) requires around 2300 kcal just to get by without the body deteriorating. Taking only myself into comparison, when I'm fully active with my normal training and stuff, I burn around 4000 kcal/day, just to keep up with the energy need, and I can go higher when pushing myself. Worst off are elite cyclists, elite soldiers in the field etc, who can require up to 12000 kcal/day if they want to avoid bodily deterioration.
  • by ceeam ( 39911 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:21AM (#11050092)
    Untrue. I live in Russia now and when comparing food prices with a friend of mine living in Washington, DC suburbs... well, maybe at average they are 70% of US's. But _quality_ food in Russia, generally, costs the same or more compared with the same quality food in US. Meat, in particular, is _very_ expensive in Russia. 10 years ago you would be right, though.
  • by Skyfire ( 43587 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:39AM (#11050147) Homepage
    This [] has got to be the urban legend that pisses me off the most, just because so many people try to make a point out of it. Long story short, originally both the USA and the USSR used pencils, but they would cause problems in microgravity due to the leads breaking and floating around in the air. The Fisher pen company developed the pen with their own money and sold each pen to nasa for only 2.95.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:57AM (#11050401)
    having extra muscle requires a lot more calories to support than fat (or than nothing) even when it's doing nothing. for most of our evolution food was scare and getting rid of that metabolic cost when it wasn't being used was beneficial and a good thing.
  • Sorry, thats a Myth (Score:3, Informative)

    by bjomo ( 832719 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @08:59AM (#11050410)
    While the Fisher space pen did require a large sum of money to develop, NASA had nothing to do with the development. In fact, NASA also used pencils before the space pen was available.

    This is just like the story of one of the very first modal imapact hammers. A modal impact hammer is used for vibration testing. It contains a force transducer in the head of the hammer so you can measure the excitation force applied to the structure you are hitting with it. Anyway, it one of these efforts to trim the fat on government spending (ie. $10,000 toilet seat type stuff), they were attacking the use of a $5,000 hammer. It turned out to be a $5 hammer and a $4,995 force transducer! So try getting the facts straight before you go spouting off so you don't end up with egg on your face like those guys.

    Also, the Fisher space pen did not have a pump. It contains an ink that when at rest is too thick to squeeze around the roller ball of the pen. However, when the ball is in motion the shearing force applied to the ink allows the ink to flow and the user to write.
  • by ForestGrump ( 644805 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:11AM (#11050463) Homepage Journal
    Well, when there is zero gravity, there is no need to maintain muscle to fight gravity.

    So if no need to maintain the muscle, muscle mass will decrease.
  • by PeeAitchPee ( 712652 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:12AM (#11050465)

    The problems, beyond the expeted small technical ones, have all been due to America not having a worthwhile launch system to do their end of the job.

    I like how you left out the part about Russia not being able to pay for their modules so they could be completed and sent up on time.

  • Re:Only 2 astronauts (Score:4, Informative)

    by FatAlb3rt ( 533682 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @09:12AM (#11050467) Homepage
    the Soyuz can hold 3, which has traditionally been the crew size on the station. until shuttle flights resume, the crew size will be limited to 2, since the Russians can't crank out enough Soyuz and Progress (supply) missions to support a crew of 3.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2004 @10:08AM (#11050800)
    That's not true. It is calories that are important. Where the Atkins Diet succeeds is not by reducing carbs but increasing intake of protein which acts as an appetite suppressant thus reducing calories.
  • by CodeWanker ( 534624 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @12:12PM (#11052003) Journal
    The ISS has no meaning beyond the political. We've snapped together a crummy space station out of poorly constructed pieces. Huzzah. We COULD have built a station that actually embraced a new construction technology, or a self-sustaining biosphere. But we didn't. We built a rickety Habitrail In The Sky.

    And while you're happy trolling on Astronomy, I'm satisfied with: discovering new planets around other stars, determining the source of all the elemental building blocks of our planet, determining that complex organic molecules are cosmically common, determining that the laws of physics apply everywhere we can look. Trivial things like that. The vast majority of people see astronomy as useless? Fine. It doesn't mean the vast majority is right.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2004 @01:09PM (#11052567)
    The Russians are the only reason the ISS is up there (current supply missions, critical modules, etc) but don't forget who funded those critical modules.

    Because it wasn't the Russian government.
  • by orac2 ( 88688 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @01:55PM (#11053143)
    The Chinese didn't lease the Soyuz design: at one point they tried to purchase a Soyuz for reverse-engineering purposes, but the only thing the Russians were willing to supply for the price was a capsule stripped of almost all its systems.

    While obviously Soyuz inspired, the Chinese design is home grown and features a number of design improvements over the Soyuz: it's larger, and most notably, the orbital module is, unlike the Soyuz OM, capable of independant flight.

    There's a good article [] by James Oberg about it in IEEE Spectrum.
  • by Tango42 ( 662363 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @03:39PM (#11054449)
    Wrong. The energy from food is made by breaking chemical bonds - those bonds have potential energy in them. That energy has a mass equal to the energy divided by the speed of light squared - that's very small, but it certainly isn't 0. In a nuclear reaction you have exactly the same thing, but with bonds between nucleons breaking instead - it's just the strong force rather than the EM force. The energy priciples are the same.
  • by WolfWithoutAClause ( 162946 ) on Friday December 10, 2004 @07:54PM (#11056854) Homepage
    The Russians are the only reason the ISS is up there (current supply missions, critical modules, etc) but don't forget who funded those critical modules.

    The Russians did, with decades of research on space stations and on MIR that reduced the cost of the life support systems down to something the Americans could actually afford for the ISS.

    And then along comes NASA; boo-hoo we need a lifesupport and we can't afford to develop it...

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments