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Discovery To Bring "Plug and Play" Micro-Lab To ISS 43

astroengine writes "In an effort to standardize the way we do microgravity experiments, a Kentucky-based non-profit organization has developed the 'CubeLab' (a modular, miniature laboratory) that can be plugged into a rack of 15 other CubeLabs. The first set of micro-labs will be carried to the space station by the shuttle Discovery on Monday morning's launch. The CubeLab's small design allows it to be easily shipped to and from the space station, providing a faster pace of experimentation. Also, its 'plug and play' interface means installation is a breeze. Even better is the fact the CubeLabs are developed by Kentucky students, university researchers and enthusiasts. Now they've teamed up with the Houston-based NanoRacks LLC; could this be the future of space research collaboration?"
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Discovery To Bring "Plug and Play" Micro-Lab To ISS

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  • by icebrain ( 944107 ) on Monday April 05, 2010 @10:16AM (#31733444)

    I think you're on to something there.

    The problem is the current focus of non-commercial spaceflight--science. That is, pure science for its own sake. We spend billions of dollars on flights (manned and not) for the sake of "Doing Science and Research". Now, I like science as much as the next guy--its a great thing. But spending our billions of spaceflight dollars to launch a mission just so we can watch worms wriggle around in zero gravity is a waste. It's one thing to run such experiments in the course of something larger, but as an end in themselves, they're a terrible idea.

    We need to drop all the BS about "science" and "exploration" and "discoveries". The only goal of the public space program should be establishing as many permanent, self-sustaining stations and settlements as we can. Moon, Mars, asteroids, Jovian moons, 2001-style "wheel" stations, generation ships. Either we expand, or we die.

    The efforts to support this should be national level, right up there with fixing the national infrastructure and transitioning to nuclear/renewable power. I'm talking bigger than Apollo, bigger than the bailouts or the stimulus package. These ought to be the national domestic priorities, not shoveling billions of dollars down the drain for useless, ineffective social programs we've already wasted trillions on, only to pay trillions more because the first 20 years of payments were pissed away.

    The first goal should be the development of a high flight rate, low-cost, robust orbital launch vehicle, because without affordable space access, you can't do anything else up there. This is what the shuttle was supposed to be, but wound up failing miserably at. Yes, it will be expensive to develop. It will probably take a few generations of vehicles and two or three decades to get it right. We're certainly going to see a couple of designs that turn out to be failures, or at least more expensive to operate than we thought. But that's how you learn, by doing not by making endless paper studies. Offer it out to Lockheed, Boeing, EADS, N-G, SpaceX, Scaled, Dassault, even Sukhoi, to get some competition going.

    Supporting this and the future goals will take lots of engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. Add funding to existing educational money so that school systems can afford to hire existing engineers, scientists, and mathematicians at wages they will be willing to work for, and have them teach. Cut administrative and school board positions (and their pay) by at least two thirds, get rid of the do-nothing, know-nothing "education" majors that merely pretend to teach, and hire some retired drill sargeants to straighten up the schools with discipline problems. Give the kids a chance to work towards something worthwhile instead of glamorizing entertainers.

    Once the reliable launch vehicle is in service, then you start the colonization and utilization push. Mine some asteroids, put bases on the moon and Mars, build thousand-person stations in low orbit. Set up space-based solar collectors and beam energy down to remote areas.

    It comes down to this: we can sit here staring at our belly button lint for the next fifty years, or we can actually go and do something worthwhile with our lives. Doing it will be hard, it will be expensive... but sitting on our collective ass waiting for things to happen just leaves us sitting on our collective ass. New technology doesn't jsut materialize out of thin air; someone needs to work on it. Pure science can be done on the side, as leftover funds allow.

"Let every man teach his son, teach his daughter, that labor is honorable." -- Robert G. Ingersoll