Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Space The Almighty Buck

No More Science on the ISS Until Further Notice 223

Dyna-Soar writes "Discovery Channel News is reporting that NASA is canceling scientific research projects on the International Space Station until construction is complete. This may not happen before 2010 or 2012." From the article: "In addition to beginning development of a new manned launch system, expenses to return the shuttle fleet to flight following the 2003 Columbia disaster and delays completing the International Space Station have left NASA with a projected shortfall of up to $5 billion over the next five years"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

No More Science on the ISS Until Further Notice

Comments Filter:
  • by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:49AM (#13977290) Journal
    NASA is setting up the ISS to fail. Watch, in a couple of years they'll announce that they will no longer provide funds to get it built, because it won't be serving any scientific purposes for them.

    I don't blame NASA, with the Bush administration's promises (to get people onto the Moon and Mars) that NASA has to desperately keep, while in the same breath the administration announces NASA's funds being cut, they're desperate to do anything. This is because the Bush administration is setting NASA up to fail. I won't be surprised if in 15 years time, NASA simply won't exist anymore. I just hope that by that time, there isn't a need for it.

    Whilever the American government's greed and paralyzing fear continues to determine it's policies concerning space, America will continue to fall behind other nations. America just better hope the private space industry takes off, with American corporations at the helm, because at the rate it's going, the government will be useless when it comes to space.
  • by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:51AM (#13977297) Homepage
    There are two types of critics of the US space program - the ones who criticize them for the horrible decisions they have been making for the last 30 years (starting with decision to go ahead with the STS system) and hte ones who think the whole thing is a waste of money and should be cancelled. The problem is that when the former group speak out, they give the latter group all the ammunition they could want.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:53AM (#13977302)

    The correct headline should be "No More US Science on the ISS". Other ISS participants (Russians, Europeans, etc.) are very likely to conduct scientific experiments, even if limited.

  • by axonis ( 640949 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:53AM (#13977303)
    This is just the Bush adinistration trying to go one up on Clinton with the ISS, also to try beat the Chinese back to the moon.
  • Smokescreen (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:59AM (#13977324)
    What they really want is to cancel the ISS. It's more acceptable to announce the cancellation only in 2010, when people have mostly forgotten the money that was spent on this.
  • by DenDave ( 700621 ) * on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @06:10AM (#13977477)
    Well manned spaceflight has always had a portion of national pride involved and well, today's geopolitical situation doesn't really warrant that kind of muscle flexing. In addition, the "feel good" component is hardly relevant to a country who has just proven it's inability to care for it's own people in light of a disaster.

    Society as a whole is slowly tetering off balance, not only in the US but the rioting in France shows that Europe is not immune to the decay of the fabric of society. Manned spaceflight is just not something we have the luxury of playing with when the barbarians are at the gates of Rome, I can only pray we don't fall asleep before they make the final charge.
  • by The Wooden Badger ( 540258 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @06:33AM (#13977524) Homepage Journal
    If you think about the economics of it, it's a no-brainer. NASA as we know it is bloated like Windows. There are over-priced projects that are sucking it dry with little to know return in knowledge and/or experience. On the other hand some of the recent successes are garage projects, by comparison. Think of Pathfinder. It was pretty much a small project that reaped big rewards. We have probes that are going into extended service (that were not necessarily launched from the shuttle). And how many times do we see stories here on Slashdot about people from University 'X' making a satelite that runs on Linux for chump change? Incidentally, I think all the analogies of moving into an apartment that isn't finished kind of misses the point of the ISS. It is more like moving into a time share that isn't finished.
  • by chrisuhlik ( 818537 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @07:01AM (#13977601)
    The following excerpt was taken from A Rocket To Nowhere []

    The ISS was another child of the Cold War: originally intended to show the Russians up and provide a permanent American presence in space, then hastily amended as a way to keep the Russian space scientists busy while their economy was falling to pieces. Like the Shuttle, it has been redesigned and reduced in scope so many times that it bears no resemblance to its original conception. Launched in an oblique, low orbit that guarantees its permanent uselessness, it serves as yin to the shuttle's yang, justifying an endless stream of future Shuttle missions through the simple stratagem of being too expensive to abandon.

    Of course, the ISS has also been preemptively armed with science, but NASA has found much more effective safeguards against potential budget cuts. The station's inordinately expensive modules have mainly come from foreign space agencies, ensuring that even a NASA administrator foolhardy enough to let the thing drop into the sea would contravene a fistful of international treaties. And the station requires a permanent crew, a trick NASA learned from the Shuttle, so that there can be no question of mothballing it or converting it into an unmanned research platform.

    In the thirty years since the last Moon flight, we have succeeded in creating a perfectly self-contained manned space program, in which the Shuttle goes up to save the Space Station (undermanned, incomplete, breaking down, filled with garbage, and dropping at a hundred meters per day), and the Space Station offers the Shuttle a mission and a destination. The Columbia accident has added a beautiful finishing symmetry - the Shuttle is now required to fly to the ISS, which will serve as an inspection station for the fragile thermal tiles, and a lifeboat in case something goes seriously wrong. This closed cycle is so perfect that the last NASA administrator even cancelled the only mission in which there was a compelling need for a manned space flight - the Hubble telescope repair and upgrade - on the grounds that it would be too dangerous to fly the Shuttle away from the ISS, thereby detaching the program from its last connection to reason and leaving it free to float off into its current absurdist theater of backflips, gap fillers, Canadarms and heroic expeditions to the bottom of the spacecraft.

  • by DiamondGeezer ( 872237 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @07:21AM (#13977645) Homepage
    1. No more science to be done on the ISS. Who noticed? When compared to the Hubble, where is the outcry from the scientific community?
    2. If there's no science to be done on the ISS, why is it manned?
    3. If it shouldn't be manned and there's no science to be done, why is it there?

    It's a matter of time before there's a Survivor: International Space Station, where the losers get flung out of the hatch and make their own way back by hitching a ride on the next Soyuz.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @08:11AM (#13977740)
    So building the station, which requires a lot of EVAs and maneuvering large items, is less dangerous than floating around inside taking data? You really have no idea what the hell you are talking about, do you?

    This is just another example of the Bush Administration trying to destroy manned spaceflight. "Hey, let's put a bean counter in charge!" "Hey, let's take all the money away from the scientific programs so we can put it all into a 'Mars' program that we have no intention of ever funding acceptably!" Just as the Republicans are trying to cash starve the government in an attempt to bankrupt it and give themselves the excuse to cut all funding that doesn't directly benefit their base (the oil industry, the defense industry . . . ), they are trying to cash starve NASA so they can take manned space flight away from them and give it to the Air Force.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @08:21AM (#13977763) Homepage Journal
    Clearly it will be converted to DoD R+D work, aka 'black' projects. The administration has never made a secret of their desire to militarize space.
  • Re:Just imagine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by earthbound kid ( 859282 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @09:05AM (#13977907) Homepage
    That's really insightful, because the Apollo program was completely funded as a means to plant flags in the dust, and totally not as way of showcasing our ability to deliver ICBM payloads precisely to insanely distant targets.

    You know, I found the whole "wow, we're spending money on Iraq" argument insteresting the first time someone brought it up, but... Oh wait, no I didn't think it was interesting then either, because it's idiotic. America spends shitloads of cash on shitsloads of things. Hey, I bet if we didn't have interstate highways, we could spend it on space stations!! Or hey, let's get rid of firemen and just make moon buggies!! We don't need cops: more warp drive, plz!!! Or any other damn thing we spend money on. Except wait, no, we weren't willing to spend money on space in the 1990s when the budget was loose, and we aren't willing to now when the budget is tight. The only time we were interested in spending money on it, was when it looked like there might be some military benefits to doing it. Just shut the fuck up about this shit, and saving it for when it's even vaguely related to the topic at hand.

    And I say this as someone oppossed to the fucking war!
  • by amightywind ( 691887 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @09:39AM (#13978054) Journal

    I have felt for a while that the long term future of space research (both commercial and for national prestige) lies in Asia. I think much of the critical materials research will come from Japan, reliable rocket technology from India and China, electronics from Taiwan and Korea, and governmental support for major advances mainly from China.

    I disagree. Japan has no real manned space plan other than hitching rides on the US space shuttle. They have a decent but expensive booster in the H2. Nothing distinctive from US, Russian, or European boosters. They do not have exceptional engine technology or launch facilities. China and India have second tier programs. How you project China to be dominant in space is not clear. Maybe you just dislike the US are rooting for them.

    The US and Europe will increasingly have other concerns, with the political will for expensive space projects generally lacking. While the US will probably be able to claim the "credit" for the militarisation of space, I do not believe the US desire to feed its defense industry with boondoggles like an "anti missile shield" will lead to much useful technology for space exploration, exploitation or eventual colonisation.

    The US is motivated to dominate lunar exploration for the only reason that it is becoming feasable for other countries. We have already heard Mike Griffin refer to lunar landing capability as 'strategic'. Why would the US just want to abdicate its current position? You are not making sense. Furthermore military space (imaging, electronic surveillance, GPS) is more important than ever to the US with the proliferation of missle and nuclear technology. These military technologies have had profound impact on our daily lives and will continue to do so.

    Certainly, national pride in its ability to achieve practical results with a lower budget than the Americans is a factor.

    Lower wages help too.

  • by carambola5 ( 456983 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @10:12AM (#13978223) Homepage
    I'd like to put in my 2c.

    First of all, I'm affected by this because our company experienced some pretty hefty layoffs due to some science cuts at Ames []. We had two projects cut prematurely: one that was probably near 90% complete and another just over 50% complete.

    Here's my problem with what NASA did: Say what you want about whether NASA should have built the ISS. It was their decision. The issue arises when NASA makes the decision to build the ISS, then years later in the middle of the build, simply quits. Make a decision and stick with it, NASA. Had you completed the ISS, all that money would not have been lost. Had you never started the ISS, all that money would not have been lost. In your current situation, you have royally screwed yourselves.

    Go Space Privatization!
  • by Yanray ( 686150 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @01:28PM (#13979992)
    But are we learning from repairing/maintaining a station in such an environment.

    With every repair NASA should (a word that rarely means we are in federal Buerocracy, I know) be learning about how to live in space. While actual scientific studies are being neglected, science is being advanced solely by living in that harse and unforgiving environment.
  • by Glock27 ( 446276 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @04:06PM (#13981550)
    Ahh, I see the luddites wasted no time in responding. Just to make sure there's some serious discussion though...

    While I'm impressed with SpaceX's progress so far and have my fingers crossed for a successful launch within the next month, keep in mind that they have yet to prove the Falcon 1, much less the Falcon 9 or the impressive 27 engine, side-stacked spin-off they've proposed.

    I've read their material extensively, and if they're proceeding as stated it looks to me like they have every potential to succeed. They're using low-risk technology, applying it brilliantly, testing thoroughly and seem to have a great business plan. We'll see, but it's sure looking good. I hope nothing untoward happens, I'm sure SpaceX is ruffling a lot of feathers.

    Remember also, that the $78 million price tag is a goal, probably slightly optimistic, and that's the launch cost only. It doesn't include the cost of the payload.

    I don't think those prices are "optimistic", since SpaceX is selling flights at those prices right now. Of course, it is possible that SpaceX is taking a loss or only breaking even on these flights in order to get traction in the marketplace.

    While those prices don't include the cost of the payload (obviously, a single satellite can go into the billions), insurance is factored into the cost.

    I think eventually a nuclear-powered Mars shuttle could be a great idea. If we were to reach the point of regular Martian travel, it could be fueled and mated to a payload (such as a lander) in earth orbit, deliver the payload to a Mars orbit and return another payload from Mars back to an earth orbit where it would be refueled and mated with a new payload for the next mission.

    It's really not a "Mars shuttle". It's an exo-atmospheric interplanetary spacecraft. By no means would it be limited to Mars, though it might require a much more sophisticated crew space to make it to Jupiter, for instance. Venus would be immediately in range, though it doesn't look particularly worthwhile.

    At this point, however, we need to focus on getting to Mars and figuring out exactly what it will take to establish a permanent presence and if it's worth the cost before we invest billions of dollars developing, billions testing, and billions more building a craft with such a focused purpose.

    As I pointed out above, this spacecraft wouldn't be *particularly* focused. It might find it's greatest use in asteroid mining (go to asteroid, attach drivers, process asteroid in Earth orbit a few years later). Almost unimaginable wealth lies down that road.

    My view though, really, is that we should probably colonize the Moon before moving on to Mars. There is not a tremendous difference in available resources or hospitability, and the Moon is a much more convenient testbed. The one big difference is 1/6 G versus 1/3 G. It'd be interesting to know if either of them has a gravity field that allows the human body to exist and develop normally. My hunch is that 1/6 isn't close to enough...

    I think there would have to be large centrifuges available at a lunar colony in order for colonists to exercise and retain bone/muscle mass. Exposure to near-earth G levels may be a requirement for some other areas of our biochemistry.

    Trust me, it will take billions to design a new fission reactor and get it certified for launch, and there will be a huge fuss (probably costing billions more) over who's qualified to launch it, if anybody.

    The fission reactor SHOULD be mostly a non-issue. If it is one of the new pebble-bed designs, it can't melt down, and the fuel is in inert ceramic-coated pellets. If it were launched from the Marshall Islands, the reactor would land somewhere in the Pacific if the flight aborted. Most likely the reactor vessel wouldn't be compromised, but even if so the pellets are fairly innocuous. If people were scientifically inclined enough to understand their natural radiation environment, they'd see that the risk from l

  • Re:Great! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @06:34PM (#13983173) Homepage Journal
    The shuttle couldn't make it, you'd have to build new spacecraft, preferably in orbit at some kind of space station. If you just accept the initial flight as a loss you can quickly come up with a business case for the Moon as everything on it is free. That initial flight might cost you 100 billion dollars but you can process and ship back precious metals essentially forever once you have in-situ resource utilization.. so eventually it will be paid off.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Tuesday November 08, 2005 @11:22PM (#13985260)
    There hasn't been any commercial research done in the ISS at all.
    Mostly true, but most fundamental science research on the ground is not commercial either. There is a big difference between basic research and technology development.

    You seem to have framed a restatement of what I said as a correction....

    Not true. ISS is a terrible platform for astronomy. What astronomy was done there?

    Yeah, I was thinking of the shuttle (launching satellites mostly).

    None of the "zero-G crystals" and such ever amounted to anything that couldn't be done much cheaper down here.
    Not true. All approved ISS research was stuff that could not be done at all on the ground. If microgravity was not a requirement, it didn't fly.

    Bob Parks [] discusses this:

    In the days following the Columbia tragedy, NASA repeatedly cited protein crystal growth as an example of important microgravity research conducted on the shuttle. NASA knew better. It was 20 years ago that a protein crystal was first grown on Space Lab 1. NASA boasted that the lysozyme crystal was 1,000 times as large as one grown in the same apparatus on Earth. However, the apparatus was not designed to operate in Earth gravity. The space-grown crystal was no larger than lysozyme crystals grown by standard techniques on Earth. But the myth was born. In 1992, a team of Americans that had done protein crystal studies on Mir, commented in Nature (26 Nov 92) that microgravity had led to no significant breakthrough in protein crystal growth. Every protein that crystalizes in space, crystallizes right here on Earth. Nevertheless, in 1997, Larry DeLucas, a University of Alabama at Birmingham chemist and a former astronaut, testified before the Space Subcommittee of the House that a protein structure, determined from a crystal grown on the shuttle, resulted in a new flu drug that was in clinical trials. It simply was not true. Two years later Science magazine (25 June 99) revealed that the crystal had been grown in Australia, which is a long way off, but it's not in space. Meanwhile, the American Society for Cell Biology, which includes the biologists most involved in protein crystallography, called for the cancellation of the space-based program. Hoping to regain some credibility, an embarrassed NASA turned to the National Academy of Science to review biotechnology plans for the Space Station. On March 1, 2000, the National Research Council, the research arm of the Academy, released their study. It concluded that the enormous investment in protein crystal growth on the Shuttle and Mir had not led to a single unique scientific result. It might be supposed that programs in space-grown protein crystals would be terminated. It was a shock to open the press kit for STS-107 and discover that the final flight of Columbia carried a commercial protein crystal growth experiment for the Center for Biophysical Science and Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Director of the Center is Lawrence J. DeLucas, O.D., Ph.D.

The world is coming to an end--save your buffers!