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Dragon Capsule Heads Home From ISS 70

An Anonymous Coward sent word that the SpaceX Dragon capsule is heading home from the International Space Station. From the article: "The unmanned Dragon space capsule set off from the International Space Station Sunday for the cargo-laden return trip to Earth after successfully delivering its first commercial payload, NASA said. Using a robotic arm, an astronaut aboard the floating laboratory detached and released the capsule at 1329 GMT after an 18-day mission to resupply the space station, the first ever by a privately-owned company, SpaceX. The next step will be to bring the capsule out of orbit by intermittently firing its onboard engines to slow its speed. It is then supposed to parachute into the Pacific Ocean off the California coast at 1920 GMT."
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Dragon Capsule Heads Home From ISS

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  • Re: loss of focus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday October 28, 2012 @03:27PM (#41798401)

    The benefits of the of the Space Station are not only research into the things we might need to know for human space travel.

    Much more valuable in the short term are advances in material sciences in zero and near zero gravity.

    Also, although there would be some "ethical" issues, we need to understand the possibilities of human reproduction in space - it's going to happen, especially if they do something stupid like a multi-year mission to Mars, there will be sex.

  • Re: loss of focus (Score:1, Interesting)

    by menno_h ( 2670089 ) on Sunday October 28, 2012 @04:27PM (#41798815) Homepage

    No, the value of the ISS is much, much more mundane. How to keep a gigantic pile of junk working in space. Short term flips around the moon or earth orbit are one thing, but you really have to be able to do stuff like fix something when it breaks.

    ISS has been up there for 14 years now. The trip to Mars only takes a few years.
    I think we've had enough time to collect data by now. It's time NASA does something, or it will be superseded and made obsolete by commercial spaceflight companies.
    These companies will probably only be interested in profit, not in pure science, and might not even publish the results of their extraterrestrial surveys. This would lead to a horrible fragmentation of human knowledge of space, where the employees of companies will know about what's out there, NDAs will prevent them from spreading that knowledge. (What if the competitors find out that certain asteroids are full of palladium?)

  • Re: loss of focus (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 28, 2012 @05:10PM (#41799079)

    I do not think he is talking about the absence of doctors being a problem, but rather two issues inherent in the space environment namely increased amounts of radiation interfering with proper development of the child and the absence of gravity which might or might not be needed for various biological processes.

  • Re: loss of focus (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning AT netzero DOT net> on Sunday October 28, 2012 @11:04PM (#41800931) Homepage Journal

    Every time I see a statement like this, I ask: Where is the science to back up any statement of any kind about any mammalian reproduction?

    Hint: There isn't any at all... at least any sort that would tell you about what will happen to somebody conceiving a child in space and carrying that baby full term to birth. I'm not talking just humans here but any kind of mammal, including rats, mice, or even monkeys.

    This is also an experiment that to me is long overdue to be conducted on the ISS or some other space platform. To me it is a travesty that it was never done earlier. The main reason why such studies haven't been done is because NASA is too prudish about sex and has either rejected or dismissed such proposals in the past... even when there have been mixed genders of small mammals that have gone into space before.

    There have been some experiments done with mammal ovum and sperm done in a "simulated microgravity" environment... but they really aren't really anything more than a little past the basic embryo stage when that was done and powerful magnetic environments are a lousy simulation of microgravity. There was a pregnant rat which gave birth on the Space Shuttle...where the mom and the babies seemed to have done just fine, although that was limited to just a couple of weeks due to the limitations of the Space Shuttle itself for long-term missions. Some mice and rats have gone up to the ISS, but they have been explicitly separated by protocol from attempting reproduction during those experiments.

    Chances are likely that the first "experiments" will be done with humans before it is done with any other mammal... something I consider a travesty simply because such clueless statements like this one are repeatedly made and sentiments about sterilization of spaceflight participants is made through assumptions rather than any sound understanding of what is actually happening based upon real science. Assumptions can be made, but that is all they are.

    Some sort of artificial gravity (aka a spinning torus) may be necessary... and certainly there have been almost no long terms studies about what happens in a partial gravity environment to almost any living thing. There was going to be a centrifuge added to the ISS, but that module is one of the items cut from the design when budget considerations started to be applied. About the only significant partial gravity environment studied was the experience the dozen Apollo astronauts experienced while on the Moon... and the most any of those astronauts spent on the Moon was just three days. That coupled with the fact they were in a microgravity environment going to and from the Moon sort of negates the experience as well from serious consideration of determining any long-term health complications from living in a partial (say Mars-like) environment.

    It is best to simply say "we don't know" and end it at that.

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