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ESA Wants ISS Extended To 2020 88

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that the European Space Agency's (ESA) Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain says that uncertainty is undermining the best use of the ISS and that only guaranteeing the ISS's longevity would cause more scientists to come forward to run experiments on the orbiting laboratory. 'I am convinced that stopping the station in 2015 would be a mistake because we cannot attract the best scientists if we are telling them today "you are welcome on the space station but you'd better be quick because in 2015 we close the shop,'' says Dordain. One of the biggest issues holding up an agreement on station-life extension is the human spaceflight review ordered by US President Barack Obama and the future of US participation in the ISS is intimately tied to the outcome of that review. Dordain says that no one partner in the ISS project could unilaterally call an end to the platform and that a meeting would be held in Japan later in the year where he hoped the partners could get some clarity going forward."
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ESA Wants ISS Extended To 2020

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  • by mmcxii ( 1707574 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:21PM (#30785544)
    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this is all Obama and I am an American but... to think that just because one nation wants to let their science programs slip even more doesn't mean that anyone should pull the plug on anything.

    I fully support the efforts of any nation to keep the science going.
  • Re:why bother (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:49PM (#30785820) Journal

    is because we know about everything useful there is to know about zero g vacuum a short distance above Earths surface.

    I disagree. The long term effects of weightlessness on the human body require more study. Especially in terms of ways to mitigate muscular and skeletal degeneration. It's hard to do that kind of work without sending people up there for significant amounts of time.

  • by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:55PM (#30785870) Homepage

    Obviously they want the ISS to continue to be operational. They get to use it and the US tax payer gets to pay for it.

    Yes I am aware that they pay for part of it, but it is a fraction of what NASA pays.

  • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @08:07PM (#30785978) Homepage
    I don't think that would work. You'd need quite a bit of thrust to push the ISS (plus the fuel and drive to do the pushing) out of Earth's orbit and I doubt very much that the entire structure would have been designed to take the strain. It's not going to do you much good if as soon as you fire the engines the solar panels snap off and the lights go out...

    You might be able to do something using a low thrust Ion drive, but you'd still need to spend an awfully long time going round and round in ever increasing circles while you build up enough momentum to break orbit. In short, and if you'll excuse the pun, it's nice idea, but I just don't think it's going to fly.
  • I've heard this suggested somewhere before that ISS would make an awesome vehicle for getting to mars.

    If by 'awesome' you actually mean 'utterly and completely unsuitable', sure. Otherwise no.
    It's structure isn't designed to take the stresses that pushing out of Earth orbit will entail. (And no, ion engines aren't the answer. They aren't up to the job.) Even if it were designed to take those stresses, passing through the Van Allen belts will fry it's unshielded electronics and crew. Their corpses will then be nicely frozen when the environmental control systems, designed for the relatively toasty environment of LEO, fails in the freezing environment of interplanetary space. Anything left alive/functioning after being blasted with radiation and being deep frozen will die as the ISS loses electric power as the intensity of sunlight hitting it's solar panel decreases as it moves away from the sun.

  • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Friday January 15, 2010 @09:28PM (#30786648) Journal

    The main reason to retire the Shuttle, in my opinion, is that it costs too much to run for the "simple" task of delivering people to ISS. It's sort of like using an SUV to drive to the corner store to pick up a soda. Sure it will work, but it's kind of a pricey (and wasteful) way of doing it. And while I have no problem spending money on human space travel, I do have a problem wasting money on human space travel.

    I don't believe in the whole "private industry exploring space." That said, if Space-X can launch two or three scientists to ISS cheaper than the shuttle and bring the same number back, I'm all for it. It provides the same capability and it's cheaper.

    Let NASA work on lunar infrastructure--getting people to-and-from the Moon safely, getting equipment to the Moon, building useful things on the Moon, etc.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay