Ten years of the International Space Station

By Phil Plait | November 2, 2010 9:30 am

10 years ago today, Expedition 1 Commander Bill Shepherd and Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko climbed aboard the International Space Station, marking the first of 3652 days of continuous occupation so far. I think that on that day a decade ago, we truly became a space-faring species.

Since that day, 200 men and women from more than a dozen nations have stayed aboard the station, living there, playing there, working there, and yes, even doing some science there.

ISS_2008

I have such conflicted feelings about the ISS! I want us to have a permanent presence in space. I want us to be pushing the boundaries of science, of exploration, of what humans can see and do in space. I want us to have a stepping stone to the planets and the stars.

The ISS has the potential to fulfill most of those desires, if we so choose. That may not be obvious now, though. It started off well, back in the planning stages, but like any multi-billion dollar project, so much pork was added that it became a feeding trough for politicians. For quite some time, what we got was a $100 billion orbiting platform that couldn’t do a whole lot of science or exploration.

But this will change. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is due to go up in February 2011, and that is a very important scientific experiment. Now that construction of the station is almost complete, there is more money and time to do science aboard, too. Private American companies will soon start taking supplies and people up to orbit, and other countries will do so as well. There’s hope here.

thierry_iss_atlantis_2010While I think the ISS should’ve been done better from the start (and yes, I know how easy it is to make an armchair pronouncement), the thing to keep in mind is that the money is already spent. We now have an operating space station in orbit around the Earth.

The question now is, what do we do with it?

NASA has plans to be a part of the ISS until 2020 at least, and President Obama’s NASA budget authorization, recently passed by Congress, also funds ISS for another decade.

We have another 3653 days, at least, to use the orbiting platform. What shall we do with them?


Image credit: NASA & Wikipedia, and Thierry Legault.

Related posts:

- Whence NASA?
- 40 years later, failure is still no longer an option
- Give space a chance


CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind, Space, Top Post

Comments (96)

  1. nobody

    Would it be possible to permanently keep a space shuttle docked to the ISS? It could be used in emergencies eg if something happens to a mission from a private company etc.

  2. I think the more important question is: What peice of equipment on the space station is named after you? :D

  3. Oli

    Let’s deorbit it now, just for teh lulz.
    @1 nobody: They already have several soyuzes docked for emergencies.

  4. Old Rockin' Dave

    The biggest differences between an orbital environment and a terrestrial one are the availability of a harder vacuum than can be easily made on Earth and free-fall (“weightlessness”). Things done there should therefore take advantage of those assets.
    Clearly, biology experiments will have the greatest payoff for when we decide to go beyond our local Earth-Moon system.
    Right now, Earth surveillance and astronomy are being done cheaply and efficiently by remotely directed satellites, so those should probably get lesser priority. It would not be a bad idea though to have some easily redirectable capabilities for unforeseen urgent needs.

  5. nobody,
    It would not be practically feasible to leave a Space Shuttle docked to ISS for an extended period due to the nature of its systems and consumables. Orbiters are a power hog while docked and we have to shut down a lot of ISS science to keep it there. It is not built for extended time in space like a Russian Soyuz is.

    Phil,
    I really respect your opinions but I don’t understand the beef you seem to have with ISS. You are right of course that ISS has been mired in politics and has cost way more than it should to get to where we are today, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have and continue to do great things with it. You make it sound like AMS is the first major science achievement ISS will have – while thousands of worthy experiments have been conducted and hundreds are currently running. Since we acheived 6-person crew in mid-2009 most of the crew’s time has been busy working on SCIENCE.

    You can go to websites like the ISS daily report at nasa.gov to see the kinds of things being done.

    http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/somd/reports/iss_reports/index.html

    There isn’t enough crew time to take care of all the science going on. There is all kinds of biomedical research, and even some astronomy other than AMS, check this out: http://www.universetoday.com/74914/iss-instrument-detects-x-ray-nova/

    There are some instruments that watch the Earth to track shipping traffic on the seas. This technology may be a precursor to a fully auto-mated shipping traffic control system (somewhat like ATC).

    Not to mention the ongoing engineering challenges and invaluable lessons we are learning about closed-loop human life support, etc.

    Once again, I see your point from a perspective of the many years it took us to get here and the mountain of cash that was sunk. But with all that behind us, the ISS is truly an invaluable laboratory that has been doing all these things for years.

    Much respect.
    Ben H.
    Mission Control, TX

  6. Bob in Easton

    I Like Buzz’s idea….move it into orbit around Mars and send missions to it before attempting to make a landing.

  7. I forgot to mention all the research that the Japanese module is doing on their exposed platform. I’m sure JAXA has some websites to read about what they are doing. Here’s the JAXA ISS info page:

    http://kibo.jaxa.jp/en/

  8. BJN

    I’m reading “Packing for Mars” by Mary Roach and the reality of humans in space is far from the science fiction visions of my youth. Difficult, expensive and dangerous are usual adjectives for space travel, but “disgusting” wasn’t apparent to me until reading this book. “Living in an outhouse…” for weeks or months is the reality for weightless humans who have to deal with the realities of physiology and physics in an orbiting trailer park.

    Since the National Center for Atmospheric Research is local to you, I wonder if you’ll mention the research they coauthored projecting the negative effects of injecting soot into the upper atmosphere by the rubber-burning engines used by Scaled Composites? It’s hardly surprising that for-profit space transport would gravitate to cheap and dirty solutions:

    http://artsandsciences.colorado.edu/magazine/2010/10/space-tourism-could-spur-global-climate-change/

  9. Jeff

    “and yes, I know how easy it is to make an armchair pronouncement”

    aw, go ahead and make armchair pronouncements.

    I really hate “PC” language, which means a watered down (thus a big nothing) version of everything instead of good straight, hard talk, which kicks people in the butt to finally do things. That is what is wrong with society today and what has been wrong since they stupidly cut Apollo and went the shuttle route. When in history , other than the “Dark Ages” has mankind made a backward step in innovations and still moved forward.

    But having said this, I can see your point about 10 years of the ISS as doing some good and you give an excellent example of this with the a mag. spec.

  10. Mr. D

    “But this will change. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is due to go up in February 2011, and that is a very important scientific experiment.”

    Really? The AMS is a ~1G$ instrument on a 100G$ s/c. I don’t regard that as a good reason to construct that station. Especially since there are no technical reasons not to build it as a stand alone experiment (given the final cost…). A 100G$ power supply, telemetry and radiator unit is just a joke, with the AMS-02 being the punchline.

  11. Bryan D

    I wonder, if the same amount of hardware was placed on the Moon would we be able to get more or less science out of it?

  12. ND

    I think the shuttle’s high maintenance is an issue when it comes to parking in orbit for like 6 months, which you can do with the soyuz capsules.

    I think what the ISS is missing is some creative thinking. There has to be lots of gov funded and private ventures that could make good use of a decent sized space station.

    Also, does the AMS really need to be attached to the ISS? You don’t need to worry about power since it would be plugged in to the ISS, but I don’t particularly see any benefit to be shuttled up and attached to the ISS. Does the AMS need periodic maintenance?

  13. jfb

    @Phil:

    I want us to have a permanent presence in space.

    A permanent presence or a permanent manned presence? ‘Cause we’ve had the unmanned program accomplishing useful science for the last three decades pretty much uninterrupted. I’d say that counts as “permanent”.

    I’m a bit of a romantic, I’m old enough to remember the later Apollo missions, but every time I look at it objectively, I simply cannot make the case for manned space flight. There are almost no manned missions that could not be accomplished just as well by an unmanned mission in principle (assuming further advances in robotics and AI software). About the only exception is colonization, and I’m not convinced colonizing other planets is a productive use of resources.

    We might as well use the ISS to the fullest of its capabilities, but I’m not convinced we’ll ever the get the value out of it to offset its cost. There’s simply no compelling reason to send people to do a robot’s job anymore.

  14. Richard

    We have another 3653 days, at least, to use the orbiting platform. What shall we do with them?

    Have a space kegger. Duh.

  15. kurt_eh

    Are there any time-lapse videos (not from the Enterprise opening) showing the development/evolution of the ISS?

    A simple google search came up with cg construction models. Not quite what I’m after.

  16. Orlando

    “Since that day, 200 men and women from more than a dozen nations have stayed aboard the station, living there, playing there, working there, and yes, even doing some science there.”

    “The question now is, what do we do with it?”

    I think the word we’re looking for has three letters, starts with an “S”, has a “E” in the middle and ends with an “X”. 3652 days! Too much time without fun up there! :P

  17. ASFalcon13

    “and President Obama’s NASA budget authorization, recently passed by Congress”

    Sigh, here we go again. Phil, you’re a smart guy, so I’m not sure how you keep getting this wrong. Perhaps you’re trying to give credit where credit isn’t due?

    The NASA authorization that passed and was signed was not Obama’s plan. The bill that got through Congress originated in the Senate. In crafting it, some direction was taken from Obama’s plan, but differs in some very significant ways, including:

    - Lower level of funding for technology development in comparison to Obama’s plan
    - Lower level of funding for commercial space development and acquisition in comparison to Obama’s plan
    - Heavy lift development begins soon (SLS), rather than waiting until 2015 to decide as proposed by Obama
    - Orion remains a space exploration vehicle (MPCV), as opposed to becoming an ISS lifeboat as proposed by Obama

    To be clear, Congress didn’t pass Obama’s plan. Instead, Congress passed and Obama signed the Senate’s plan.

  18. Oli

    13. Orlando made me think… Has anyone actually ever had sex in space?

  19. Scott P.

    “There are almost no manned missions that could not be accomplished just as well by an unmanned mission in principle (assuming further advances in robotics and AI software). ”

    This can be used to create a handy template for all sorts of other things:

    “There are almost no human-written novels that could not be accomplished just as well by a machine in principle (assuming further advances in robotics and AI software.)”

    “There are almost no human-baked pizzas that could not be prepared just as well by a machine in principle (assuming further advances in robotics and AI software.)”

    “There are almost no human-generated blog comments full of hand waving and special pleading that could not be written just as well by a machine in principle (assuming further advances in robotics and AI software.)”

  20. Keith Bowden

    For sex in space, read Mary Roach’s Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Informative, fun, and funny.

  21. Orlando

    @15: It’s a relatively osbcure topic, for what I’ve searched so far… Maybe this could help: http://www.slate.com/id/2159265/

  22. Grand Lunar

    What to do with the ISS?

    As much as possible, say I.

  23. Tony

    Is it possible for it to be expanded using modules developed solely for and by private industry?

  24. ND

    Is it possible to sell the ISS at some point? It’s made by many countries and one would need to get everyone’s approval or something.

  25. Oli

    Why don’t we put big engines on it, launch it to Jupiter, brake in the atmosphere, land on Europa, put big lights on and be killed by a huge plant-like creature?

    I’m just sayin’.

  26. jfb

    @Scott P:

    Fine. Enumerate the kinds of missions that require a manned presence. Not just would work better with a manned presence, but a mission that an unmanned system could not accomplish in principle.

    I’ve already noted colonization. What else is there?

    Why do we need people in the ISS? What jobs are they doing that could not somehow be automated or remotely operated?

  27. Cheyenne

    “The question now is, what do we do with it?”.

    Would it be terrible to suggest that it’s a bit frightening that the question needs to be asked? We spent well over $100 billion to construct the ISS and there is still no defined plan with what to do with it? If we could have spent this money on an incredible fleet of robotic missions instead that question obviously wouldn’t have to be asked.

    When a guy like Story Musgrave comes out and calls the ISS an “ungodly sin” it should give some people pause. There are very few people on this planet as qualified as him to comment on the ISS. He values humans in space obviously, but he also said we need to lead with robots and that they should be our primary focus at this point in time.

    So what to do with it? Defund it as much as possible to free up money and time for missions that actually produce science and do real exploration. Then hopefully hand it over to a private consortium in 2020 to let them do whatever they want with it.

  28. Andrew W

    The ISS, like the shuttle, is a program that was built to serve a political purpose rather than an economic or scientific function, and that’s what America will continue to get in its space program as long as that program is in the hands of the politicians.

  29. Wayne Robinson

    I still continue to insist that the ISS was an enormous waste of money (that said, I grabbed the image and will eventually use it as the wallpaper on my iPad).

    I have read Mary Roach’s “Packing For Mars”. I strongly recommend it.

    Another good book is Robert Park’s “Voodoo Science: the Road From Foolishness to Fraud”, which has a good chapter on the foolishness of the ISS.

  30. MaDeR

    Why there always some folks that want to fly ISS to Moon or Mars? Good grief. Do they propose crossing ocean standing on desk, too?

    “Is it possible to sell the ISS at some point?”
    Why anyone would buy retardedly expensive white elephant?

    “(assuming further advances in robotics and AI software).”
    Now you just handwave it with “will be somethin somewhat somehow invented magically rendering manned space obsolete”. I do not give crap about something like that. I give crap about what can do NOW. And there NOW are things that only human can do, or can do significantly better.

    “Not just would work better with a manned presence,”
    Working sufficiently better to justify higher costs is enough. For example, gathering 300+ kilograms of moon rocks instead 300+ grams.

    And if you think money from closing manned space entirely would be transfered to unmanned space, you’re naive.

  31. David

    The ISS has been a complete boondoggle. Think about all the robotic missions we could have launched over the last 10 years for $100,000,000,000. We could have had a mission to Jupiter to explore its satellites including a lander on Europa. We could have had probes going to Uranus and Neptune. We could have a replacement for Cassini including a rover on Titan. And that’s just a small sample of what we could have done with all that money. We would have so much data being sent back to Earth people wouldn’t know what to do with it.

    Instead what do we have now? We can crystallize proteins. Not worth it if you ask me.

  32. ND

    MaDeR,

    I dunno. They’re converting churches to condos, why not a space station into a hotel or something. The Virgin-Sheraton maybe?

    To go off on a tangent, did we learn anything new in term of engineering through the construction of the ISS? New techniques or new technologies? I’m going to guess that the space programs had learned more at the end of Apollo, Skylab, Solyut and Mir than through ISS. The ISS looks like an application of engineering and space construction techniques already learned. Or another way of looking at it, it was a demonstration that we can build something big and habitable in orbit through international cooperation.

    ps. That photo of the ISS is a bit dated. There is currently an additional set of solar panels on the right end.

  33. Add me to the list of commenters here who love space exploration but think the ISS is a complete waste of time and money. Boondoggle, indeed. That is all.

  34. Brian Too

    @15. kurt_eh,

    It may seem funny, but I can recommend the following. In the DVD (Blu-Ray?) of Toy Story 3, there is a large set of extras. One is an animation of the assembly of the entire space station.

    It’s fascinating! You can see how each module connects to the rest. The early stages eventually almost disappear, being overwhelmed by much larger later additions. I had to slow-frame through it several times to get full advantage of what they were showing.

    I believe that the animation, and some of the other bonus video footage, came directly from NASA. For instance they showed an astronaut in the space station, with a Buzz Lightyear doll!

  35. Donovan

    Certainly, the ISS has been a black hole for cash. I don’t think anybody of any education and intelligence can argue otherwise. But that is missing the point: we have had a human in space continually for the last decade!

    Yes, we should and can do better. That’s like saying the sky’s blue or grass is green. It’s an obvious point that is only argued by the philosophically deluded, and not being argued by me or, it appears, Phil. But why should the shenanigans of corrupt politicians and morally bankrupt ORD’s (Old Rich Dudes) so easily tarnish scientific achievements? Thanks to people who have traded wealth, willing subjected themselves to political witch hunts, resigned to a life of selling plasma to pay off student debt, and are, in the US at least, considered vile and verminous liars by a hefty portion of their neighbors, we are in space at this very moment. We are. Humans. How can you ignore such a thing and focus on the problems which, in all honesty, are problems plaguing every noble effort of humanity?

    I refuse to allow science to be subject to the shame of dirty government officials. I say, way to go ISS team! It’s been real, it is real.

  36. Roger Garrett

    Wait. You’re saying that NOW the question is, “what to do with it?” Shouldn’t that have been the absolutely FIRST question to ask, way back when this monstrosity was first being considered? And if there were no good answers to that question we could have used those billions for REAL space science. How can it possibly take ten years of occupation before science becomes the priority?

    This is just so amazingly sad.

  37. AJ in CA

    I think the ISS is the perfect example of why fiscal compromises are sometimes a bad idea. Without support for a large crew (including escape vehicles and a more responsive, inexpensive alternative to the shuttle) for much of the ISS’s history, the crew has been pretty much engaged in just keeping them place running.
    If you cut a project like the ISS by, say, 30%, you don’t go from 100 “arbitrary science units” to 70. You go from 100 to minus 10 :P

  38. Jamey

    I kind of wish it had been sold more as an engineering development platform, than a science platform. We should have had it spinning, a larger area at the core where freefall assembly practice could take place, and stowage for materials for later recycling, even if current recycling is not so feasible. Question – does the ISS vent and eject its waste in such a way as to help maintain its orbit?

  39. I just went out with the dog for a walk, looked up, and happened to see the ISS pass overhead in Squamish, BC, just North of Vancouver!

  40. Andrew W

    It should have been a step along a road to somewhere, as Mercury and Gemini were.

    The only worthwhile use for it that I can see is as a tourist destination, though Jamey’s engineering development platform idea has some merit.

  41. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 8. BJN Says:

    I’m reading “Packing for Mars” by Mary Roach and the reality of humans in space is far from the science fiction visions of my youth.

    &

    @20. Keith Bowden Says:

    For sex in space, read Mary Roach’s Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Informative, fun, and funny.

    & also

    @ 30. Wayne Robinson Says:

    I have read Mary Roach’s “Packing For Mars”. I strongly recommend it.

    See this link :

    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2010/11/02/3053675.htm

    to a recent ABC TV program which interviewed Mary Roach and discussed her book which was quite interesting – albiet perhaps putting images in your head that you may not want there! ;-)

  42. Messier Tidy Upper

    Congratulations to the International Space Station, its builders, crews and fans. It might not be Babylon 5 but it is a start. :-)

    (..& looking up at it from Earth – also a moving star. ;-) )

    Given that the ISS hasn’t been 100% completed yet I say we give it a chance & see what it is capable of doing before condemning it. Its critics should also, I think, bear in mind that there are far worse wastes of money much more deserving of criticism than the International Space Station.

    Finally, now that the ISS is ten years old and nearly complete, perhaps, just perhaps, its time we gave it a *proper* name rather than a descriptive acronyn! ;-)

    Might I suggest the O’Neill or the Werner Van Braun station or perhaps Harmony given its international nature? Crikey, I’d even settle for the Colbert station over its present uninspiring moniker. ;-)

  43. Messier Tidy Upper

    PS. Or maybe we might name the International Space Station the Edward Everett Hale after the man who first proposed the idea of space stations & artificial satellites in his 1869 Science Fiction short story ‘The Brick Moon’ perhaps?

    See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brick_Moon for more. :-)

    Or just the Hale giving us the Hale space station and the Hubble space telescope pairing. ;-)

  44. t-storm

    Any project funded by the government will get mired down and eventually lose the initial capabillity it was suppoesed to have. The space shuttle comes to mind.
    Military projects too. They are wasting time trying to make one fighter for all three services but it just isn’t practical.

    Maybe the only exception might be the LHC, just because you can’t change the science it needs to do, but I bet the manufacturers of the components are from every corner of the globe.

  45. Messier Tidy Upper

    @3. Oli says : “Let’s deorbit it now, just for teh lulz.”

    You want to let the astronauts get out of it first *before* you do that right? :-o ;-)

  46. gss_000

    Sorry, but the pessimism on the station is unwarranted. Before now, there was no major joint international collaboration like this one. You say you want something that pushes development, but does keeping Russia’s space program aloft count? Spurring rocket development in Europe and Japan count? How about the inflatable habitat development Bigelow is now piggybacking on for its inflatable space stations. Without the ISS, many of the new commercial spacecraft companies would not be as far along.

    Sure, for just science, $100 billion is too much, but science (like the salmonella and staph vaccines, research helping the elderly), Earth applications (water management for instance), international diplomacy, engineering feats, etc, makes the money much more worthwhile. Especially if this gets extended to 2020 or even 2028 as some are considering.

    @32 David

    Your premise wouldn’t have happened. That’s a canard. The money is not fungible in that way. In fact, a British panel looked at that issue and found that manned space programs, like the ISS, leads to more funding for unmanned missions. So it’s actually the reverse. Without the ISS, there ‘d likely be less scientific missions.

  47. Nigel Depledge

    Bob in Easton (6) said:

    I Like Buzz’s idea….move it into orbit around Mars and send missions to it before attempting to make a landing.

    It might be easier to just build a base on Phobos.

  48. Nigel Depledge

    BJN (8) said:

    I’m reading “Packing for Mars” by Mary Roach and the reality of humans in space is far from the science fiction visions of my youth. Difficult, expensive and dangerous are usual adjectives for space travel, but “disgusting” wasn’t apparent to me until reading this book. “Living in an outhouse…” for weeks or months is the reality for weightless humans who have to deal with the realities of physiology and physics in an orbiting trailer park.

    Heh. At least they have space toilets now. There was no such thing on Apollo. IIRC, on one of the Apollo missions (I cannot recall which one), one of the astronauts had diahrroea for a short time. Ew.

  49. Nigel Depledge

    Jeff (9) said:

    I really hate “PC” language, which means a watered down (thus a big nothing) version of everything instead of good straight, hard talk, which kicks people in the butt to finally do things. That is what is wrong with society today and what has been wrong since they stupidly cut Apollo and went the shuttle route.

    So, does this mean you consider it acceptable to gratuitously offend people?

    Or have you perhaps considered that “PC” might not mean what you seem to think it means?

    Having said that, I will grant you that PC-ness has sometimes been taken way too far, but I feel obliged to acknowledge that the concept has value.

  50. Nigel Depledge

    JFB (27) said:

    @Scott P:

    Fine. Enumerate the kinds of missions that require a manned presence. Not just would work better with a manned presence, but a mission that an unmanned system could not accomplish in principle.

    I’ve already noted colonization. What else is there?

    Why do we need people in the ISS? What jobs are they doing that could not somehow be automated or remotely operated?

    On the face of it, this is a no-brainer. Experiments on human physiology in zero-g (or, technically, freefall) can’t be done by robots.

    Of course, that leads into the question of why we would need to do these experiments . . .

  51. Nigel Depledge

    Cheyenne (28) said:

    “The question now is, what do we do with it?”.

    Would it be terrible to suggest that it’s a bit frightening that the question needs to be asked? We spent well over $100 billion to construct the ISS and there is still no defined plan with what to do with it? If we could have spent this money on an incredible fleet of robotic missions instead that question obviously wouldn’t have to be asked.

    When a guy like Story Musgrave comes out and calls the ISS an “ungodly sin” it should give some people pause. There are very few people on this planet as qualified as him to comment on the ISS. He values humans in space obviously, but he also said we need to lead with robots and that they should be our primary focus at this point in time.

    So what to do with it? Defund it as much as possible to free up money and time for missions that actually produce science and do real exploration. Then hopefully hand it over to a private consortium in 2020 to let them do whatever they want with it.

    Well, I sorta agree with you here. The question of what to do with it should have been asked and answered before the build was even started.

    However, if you look at comment #5 (Ben H), you may find that this question has indeed already been answered.

  52. Nigel Depledge

    MaDeR (31) said:

    And if you think money from closing manned space entirely would be transfered to unmanned space, you’re naive.

    Agreed.

    Ironically, the very next comment begins thusly:
    David (32) said:

    The ISS has been a complete boondoggle. Think about all the robotic missions we could have launched over the last 10 years for $100,000,000,000.

    David, did you read and consider the preceding comment before posting, or was it a cross-post?

  53. Nigel Depledge

    David (32) said:

    Instead what do we have now? We can crystallize proteins. Not worth it if you ask me.

    OK, first, did you read comment #5 at all?

    Second, have you ever tried to crystallise a protein? It’s actually really hard to do, except for a handful of proteins that just happen to crystallise very nicely. Having protein crystals allows detailed structure determination using X-ray diffraction, which can lead to such benefits as more specific drugs and more effective drugs.

    Or do you think that trying to eliminate the side-effects of some drugs is not worth any effort?

    (BTW, crystallising proteins is only one small aspect of what the ISS does, but I would otherwise agree that crystallising proteins alone does not justify the money spent.)

  54. Nigel Depledge

    Andrew W (41) said:

    It should have been a step along a road to somewhere, as Mercury and Gemini were.

    I would love to be able to agree with you here, but Mercury and Gemini led to Apollo, which then led on to … erm, well, nothing much.

    While I agree that Apollo was a huge achievement, I don’t think your argument is a good one.

  55. fernando

    wonder it the same money spent on Earth would have produced better scientific results… we humans here on Earth do waste also a LOT of resources originally budget for scientific research… what is certain is that a second ISS is out of the question, as well as the Moon and Mars. We better stick with those funny robots and small enterprises, we don’t have the right tech yet at the right cost.

  56. Nigel Depledge

    Overall, I think I’m seeing good points on both sides here.

    While there is a great deal of stuff happening in the ISS, the station itself was so expensive and has taken so long to assemble that I think it needed something truly outstanding to juistify its cost.

    And none of the good work that is happening on the ISS has really grabbed the headlines, has it?

    To some extent, the ISS seems to me to be an answer to the question “well, we’ve spent all this money on making a short-haul heavy lift truck (Shuttle), what shall we do with it apart from launching spy satellites?” Of course, Hubble and its servicing missions are a very good reason for having Shuttle, as are the other orbiting observatories. I think ther may have been less motivation to build the ISS had NASA stuck to disposable launchers, though.

  57. Ferris Valyn

    Can I suggest that most people here (haven’t read all of the comments) are looking at this from the wrong perspective? When asking the question of “what to do with ISS?”, stop looking at scientific return.

    ISS isn’t an ideal station, by a long shot (if I could go back and advise people, I’d start with trying to save skylab, and then go from there – but thats nice for alternative history).

    That said, its there, and so we should ask who can use it. I see ISS as doing 2 roles
    1. Engineering test-bed for large scale space development – we have learned a LOT about doing space construction. And we can do a lot with the facility to test things like
    – propellant depots
    – advance propulsion
    – space based solar power
    There are a number of other possiblities
    2. Demonstrating & Developing human spaceflight business – this is key for determining if humans have a long term presences in space. And its why I am convinced that eliminating Constellation was absolutely necessary (which, btw, Messier Tiddy Upper, I would actually like to finish our previous conversation, but RL got in the way – if you are willing to continue it here)

  58. Oli

    But why do we want people in space? Wouldn’t it be much wiser to develop the technology as much as we can to make it cheaper, ”then” send them to space, instead of developing it while they’re there? I oppose any kind of human spaceflight until we are able to efficiently send humans to places where they can do stuff that robots wouldn’t be able to do.

  59. MaDeR

    @32:
    “Think about all the robotic missions we could have launched over the last 10 years for $100,000,000,000″
    Good grief, another idiot that thinks closing manned spaceflight will transfer all ot its money to unmanned spaceflight. You will never get that amount of money for that purpose. I have no problem with spending 100bln$ on manned spaceflight. I have problem with way that was done (ie very costly white elephant).

    @33:
    “I dunno. They’re converting churches to condos, why not a space station into a hotel or something. The Virgin-Sheraton maybe?”
    If Bigelow pull it off (and I think he will succeed), I can bet any sum of money that his space stations will be significantly cheaper (in maintenace, rent, whatever) than ISS. So, no one will buy overpriced space dongle, especially if it would to cover its costs in any significant way. Forget it.

    @60:
    “I oppose any kind of human spaceflight until we are able to efficiently send humans to places where they can do stuff that robots wouldn’t be able to do.”
    Sounds sucipiously close to old anti-space argument “Fix problems on Earth first, then we will oh-so-gratiously allow you your wasteful fanciful crap to fly in space. maybe.”. Funny that same argument is used in internal disputions between space fractions too now.

  60. Oli

    @61. MaDeR: We’ll never be able to fix the problems on Earth… What I dislike is how you just throw my argument away like it’s some silly statement from a conservative ignorant fool. What would you rather have – a Cassini to Uranus or a big box of metal floating around the Earth?

    Sure, ISS has a lot of potential, but the people that are in power at the moment it will never be used to its full potential, making it a waste.

  61. Ferris Valyn

    60 – Oli – A few things
    1. A LOT of the tech has gone as far as it can on the ground. And a lot of the tech would reduce costs (but they can’t reduce costs until we test em). We are a the point where a TON of possibilities would be opened IF we could actually test that stuff in space
    2. Dealling with the Earth to LEO transportation problem I am convinced isn’t a tech issue – its an infrastructure/operations issue. Which means no matter how much money we throw at another shuttle, or the like, it’ll never be cheap. What is needed is commercialization.

    Finally, how od you know that the people in power will never use it to its full potential?

  62. Robert

    What do we do with it?

    Abandon it and splash it before we spend more good money on it.

    Telescopes and robots. We need telescopes and robots galore.

    Manned flight is sexy, but the ISS is a waste from which no truly meaningful science will come.

    Should we commit to manned missions to Mars, we can review the data we have already. How many times must we dot the same physiology i?

    Meanwhile, we need to work on big boosters, telescopes, and robots.

    Robots for Mars, telescopes to look for neighbors. And of course, Earth Science monitors.

    BTW, I think it was Bob Park who wrote that we could have done the lifts for the ISS in 2 tries with the Saturns.

    I’m sure it might have taken more than that just because of packaging, but outr commitment to the dismal and deadly shuttles prevented that.

  63. Ferris Valyn

    Robert
    1. Why do we need big boosters? If we aren’t doing manned, then you really don’t need big boosters (in fact, you don’t need big boosters period, but seperate issue)
    2. Why is the only purpose of space science?

  64. jfb

    @Ferris Valyn:

    1. Engineering test-bed for large scale space development – we have learned a LOT about doing space construction. And we can do a lot with the facility to test things like
    – propellant depots
    – advance propulsion
    – space based solar power

    Now that’s a good idea.

    I know I sound hostile towards manned space flight in general, but my objection is really that the manned program has no purpose. We simply don’t know what to do with it, so we muck around in LEO because we don’t know what else to do and nobody wants to pull the plug. Manned space flight is little more than a jobs program at this point. We know what to do with the unmanned program (exploration and science, along with some engineering and propulsion research) and we’re doing that with a vengeance. Manned? Not so much.

    There’s no point in sending people into LEO to push buttons and monitor experiments. There’s no point in sending people to the Moon or Mars to plant the flag or do basic exploration. We can do those things just as well for far less money and energy with unmanned or remotely operated systems. Everyone loves to point to the Hubble servicing missions, but Hubble was unique in that respect; none of the other observatories were designed to be serviced in orbit (given their orbits, that’s not a surprise), and in the long run it’s cheaper and easier to deorbit or park a dying satellite and launch a replacement than it is to service in orbit.

    The only thing a manned program is good for is colonization, and building a program to establish and support permanent settlements on the Moon or Mars will make the entire Apollo program look like a weekend trip to Driftwood. You’ll have to present a pretty damned compelling reason to do it (“because we can” or “because it’s there” are not going to cut it). Earth-shattering kabooms aside, I’m not sure there are any. You establish colonies to make money or extend political influence. I’m hard-pressed to figure what resources we could extract from the Moon or Mars that would be valuable enough to justify colonization from an economic perspective. As for political influence? There’s nothing to influence (that we know of, anyway).

  65. I saw a film once, where this guy flew to the Moon (Clavius) and used an orbiting (and spinning) Space Station as an intermediate spaceport. There was a nice lounge inside, too.

    How come nobody mentioned this use for the ISS? Assembly and launch of vehicles to the Moon and Mars. Wasn’t this the whole point of having a Space Station, at least when they made that movie?

  66. Ferris Valyn

    jfb – I’ve never been accused of it yet, but I suspect there will be a day where I am accused of being the most negatively pro-human spaceflight person ever.

    Regarding most of what you said, I agree with it. There are some specific points I would like to address, though (which is why I end up being a supporter of human spaceflight)

    In your first paragraph, you said

    We know what to do with the unmanned program (exploration and science, along with some engineering and propulsion research) and we’re doing that with a vengeance. Manned? Not so much.

    You’ve left a few things in your statement, which are worth noting. The biggest is that most satellites that are launched are private satellites, launched for Comm sats and the like (I think its the largest use of launchers – its either 1 or 2). Commerce is a huge reason we go to space. If we could/can make commerce and a private market the main reason humans are in space, there is a real possibility of it becoming more cost-effective, and the price point would get lowered, thus allowing it to be a lot cheaper (and I do submit there is a price point where the value of having a human outweighs the cost, but we aren’t close to it yet). Now, when I say commerce, I don’t mean in the way its being done right now AKA a jobs program. I mean in the sense of I, as a private citizen or corporation, need to have a human doing some task in space, and I am willing to pay for it. For a lot of reasons, I am convinced that the price point related to getting to space is much higher than it needs to be. Again, this is why I think Obama’s proposed Commercial Crew is a MUST – it forces companies to start looking for more uses of spacecrafts, rather than just looking to the government for more money. Space tourism is the obvious example, but there are others I think would work.

    Second,

    There’s no point in sending people to the Moon or Mars to plant the flag or do basic exploration.

    I personally think that there is a lot of exploration that absolutely requires humans in the loop – for example, I’d love to find a way to commission a piece of art that has to be done on the Moon’s surface, using some parts of lunar setiment. (Now, whether that should be a government funded project, is a different question). The point I am getting at – exploration is, IMHO, a meaningless phrase. I can do scientific exploration, or artistic exploration, or so on. So, to say that exploration doesn’t require humans in the loop is pointless if you don’t specify the type of exploration.

    Finally,
    regarding colonization – fundamentally, if colonization happens, it’ll be a huge feat, costing trillions of dollars (if not more). Know of any country that can afford that and is willing to spend it? I don’t.
    Further, to have the number of people there, you’ll need more than just the government that is doing colonization.

    In short, colonization isn’t something that can be done with a government program. Its gotta be society wide (like ending poverty, or climate change). Which means you’ve GOT to find a way so that an individual can personally buy into the idea of colonization, and take ownership of it, somehow (we can see similar things for things like ending poverty, climate change, and so on). And for something like that to succeed, you have to introduce some sort of critical mass, which brings me back to commerce, and human spaceflight commercialization. If you can create multiple commercial reasons to put people into space, privately, you’ll start to drive the costs down, and then more people will try more business plans in space, which will push people to try bigger and bigger things, until colonization happens, in some respects, as an accident of history, rather than a planned event.

    Which is why I really supported Obama’s proposal – it did a ton of tech development, of the type I listed, and it pushed companies the development of private spaceflight.

    In short, it laid the groundwork needed for colonization, and didn’t attempt to do all of colonization on its own.

    you left out something huge,

  67. Oli

    68. Ferris Valyn Says: I’d love to find a way to commission a piece of art that has to be done on the Moon’s surface, using some parts of lunar setiment.

    Why waste money on art when you can spend it on science?

  68. Ferris Valyn

    Ok, before I respond to Oli, I should say – ignore the very last sentence in my previous comment (number 68) – that was a mistype I ment to delete, but forgot

    69 Oli -
    If you are asking in a general sense,
    What makes science more worthwhile than art?

    If you are asking about government funding of it – as I said thats a different issue

  69. Messier Tidy Upper

    @59. Ferris Valyn :

    which, btw, Messier Tiddy Upper, I would actually like to finish our previous conversation, but RL got in the way – if you are willing to continue it here

    Sure. :-)

    Guess its getting a bit late in the thread now but I’m always willing to discuss that issue.

    Can I ask a couple of questions of you here? Ok :

    ISS isn’t an ideal station, by a long shot if I could go back and advise people, I’d start with trying to save skylab, and then go from there – but thats nice for alternative history.

    (Brackets removed for clarity, btw.)

    What makes you say this? Why would Skylab have been that much better than the International Space Station?

    &

    I see ISS as doing 2 roles – 1. Engineering test-bed for large scale space development … & 2. Demonstrating & Developing human spaceflight business – this is key for determining if humans have a long term presences in space. And its why I am convinced that eliminating Constellation was absolutely necessary…

    So why couldn’t we have used Constellation for those reasons?

    Wouldn’t developing Constellation have helped us on both those fronts and also been a mahjor “drawcard” attracting public interest and boosting national morale as well?

  70. Messier Tidy Upper

    On that whole Earth or Space false dichotomy fallacy : I wrote this recently wa-aay downthread in the old “How many habitable planets” (29th Oct. 2010) one (comments # 110 & # 145 combined here) but I’ll repeat again because this truly dumb argument seems to keep rearing its very ugly head :

    ***

    @63. Esther :

    so the argument about whether we should spend resources to go there or not seem silly to me. We’d do better to spend our limited resources in cleaning up the mess we made here.

    It is NOT zero-Sum! We can and are very well advised to work on doing BOTH! There are plenty of people and resources on the planet to put into both “cleaning up our act here” *and also* “exploring and settling elsewhere” too.

    That “Either Clean up Earth or Explore Space” argument is a pure example of the false dichotomy logical fallacy.

    One thing that I find infuriating is how this argument is so often applied to space travel and yet not other things. You can make the exact same fallacious “Don’t spend money on X until everything on the planet is fixed” ‘argument’ ( :roll: ) for funding sport, the arts, entertainment & most of the areas in life that give people pleasure and interest.

    Why is it always space exploration & science generally that’s unfairly singled out here rather than say fuunding the opera or playing football etc ..

    Besides – as somebody else up thread noted – we’ll *never* fix all the problems here anyhow. It can’t be done. Our “dirty” planet & general global situation will never be perfect in the eyes of all these eco-socio-perfectionists whatever we do. It is unrealistic to think otherwise. Human life is always messy and problematic, the poor will always be with us and also wars, etc ..

    However much money you throw at things we’ll never get an ideal Utopia.

    Although we can and are generally made better off by reasonably trying to improve things & get closer to Utopias anyhow, we shouldn’t just forget that harsh reality.

    ***

    Plus I’ll add taht the “false dichotromy also applie stothose who argue we can’t have both the manned & robotic space exploration programs, the public and private space program, Lunar return missions and trips to Mars and much more too.

  71. Messier Tidy Upper

    Typos. Sigh. :-(

    That’s :

    Plus I’ll add that the “false dichotomy” also applies to those who argue we can’t have *both* the manned & robotic space exploration programs, the public *and* private space program, Lunar return missions as well as trips to Mars and much more too.

    In all those cases doing the one could actually help us with doing the other too. These are mutually complementary not contradictory things.

    We don’t need to abandon the ISS to do other stuff. It could be a way station, a stepping stone for moving on to other more exciting things.

    Same applies for Constellation methinks.

    Let’s be realistic – the two big problems are money and political will power and vision – but neither one is insurmountable.

    The money issue is misleading and not as bad as painted, I think, because :

    1) Space exploration and development is an investment with high returns and rewards incl. serendiptious ones

    2) The money isn’t burnt up in space but is spent on Earth, NASA provides employment, creates jobs and inventions and spin-offs that help tens or hundreds of thousands of folks – if not more.

    3) It is really NOT that significant an amount in the greater scheme of things. Far more is wasted on other things for far less value and return. Foreign aid where the USA shovels money into the hands of despots and corrupt politicians who hate us regardless in places like Pakistan and Yemen is one example. Lefties would argue the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan against those who are trying to destory us are a waste of money. Righties would argue bloated government spending, social welfare payments, feel-good environmentalist projects, money spent on “nanny state” laws and Obamacare is a huge waste of money. Almost everyone would argue that the Wall Street bank bail-outs certainly were money wastes and should be repayed. If we really have to prioritise then sport and arts funding should arguably be cut back a heck of lot long before cuts to space exploration and science generally are, although Your Mileage May Vary, natch. ;-)

    So we get to the issue of political vision, leadership and willpower.

    That’s where I get *very* steaming mad at Obama and his failings. :-(

    Not that Obama is unique in that regard I’ll admit but he does seem particularly bad. Even if G. W. Bush didn’t fund it enough – & he didn’t I agree – at least G. W. Bush had an inspiring plan that would’ve got the USA going in human space exploration terms again.

    Obama, OTOH, will leave NASA far worse than he found it &, no, I don’t see any sufficent specifics in what his plan to convince me he’s seriously planning for a US presence on the High Frontier and not just waffling to cover the indefinite postponement of Americans going into space on their own national rockets. :-(

    I think part of the problem for the United States is the national mood of pessisim, uncertainty and doubt. There has been so much bitter, undermining of US values, so much partisan politicking that it seems you’ve lost faith in yourselves. I think a major national space program could actually *help* here with a successful Constellation program returning US astronauts to the Moon and beyond also helping boost national confidence – and thus also your economy as well. :-)

    The USA needs its mojo back -and Obama & his NASA plan isn’t doing it. It needs to revisit the can-do, gung-ho spirit it used to show when it accomplished the greatest feat in human history – the Apollo moon-landings.

    That’s how I see things anyhow.

    **************************************

    “This [space] is the new ocean and I believe the United States must sail on it and be in a position second to none.”
    - President John F. Kennedy after John Glenn’s first orbits in ‘Friendship-7’ on Feb. 20th 1962.

    “The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.”
    - Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Mercury astronaut killed in the ‘Apollo 1’ fire.

    “Earth will benefit in the end, [from Space Exploration / terraforming Venus] and not just because there’s a new world to go to, but because of what we’ll learn.”
    - Page 237, ‘Venus of Dreams’, Pamela Sargent, Bantam, 1986.

  72. Oli

    70. Ferris Valyn:

    I think that science is not more worthwile than art per se, but I’d rather have something interesting to read than something beautiful to look at, and I find it ridiculous that governments all over the world ate giving money to artists during a crisis like this, but they “have to” cut funding for science.

  73. A lot of folks here continue to make unfounded assertions about the extreme nature to which the ISS may be described as a ‘boondoggle’ or waste of money. However, I have already described in my comment #5 how this point of view is unsupported by the evidence.

    Talking about the ISS in this respect is a very political angle to take – it doesn’t look at the true complex and messy issue of advancing human engineering and technology in space. ISS is a great waypoint for us as a species. We are learning to work together as separate nations on one technical project, we are learning a lot of the engineering systems it takes to sustain humans in space for prolonged periods, and we are doing LOTS of good science while we are at it. The program itself may not have been efficiently managed, but the result is a great laboratory that should be inspiring to space geeks of all ages. Despite the trials and tribulations of politics we ARE getting something done.

    People forget that in the original space shuttle plan in the 70s, we wanted to build the space shuttle specifically to build a space station like ISS. The budget wasn’t there to develope both projects simultaneously so we just did the Shuttle and everyone moaned for 3 decades that the shuttle is a spacecraft “without a mission”. However, we now have a completed beautiful laboratory in space that took a significant percentage of the Shuttle flights to build. I’d say that despite all the years and moaning, we got what we originally hoped for.

    Yes, government spending can be grossly inefficient sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that the ISS program is ‘worthless’ or a ‘waste’ or that nothing is being done of value in space science as a result of this program. I can think of a few hundred thousand people or more around the world working very hard that know as well as I do that this is all political bluster. Look at the facts and you will find more hope for us space nerds than Phil Plait seems to imply.

    Once again, much respect to Phil, but I think he is making this more black and white than is fair.

    - Ben Honey
    Mission Control, TX

    PS. In reading some more of the comments I see that a lot of people are taking Phil at his word that science has not been a priority for ISS until 2010 and that AMS is the first significant science of any kind that can be done. I strongly feel that Phil is giving his audience the wrong impression on this topic and should balance his coverage a little bit with a follow up post.

  74. Comment #36 Donovan says it well!

  75. Ferris Valyn

    71 Messier Tidy Upper

    First rule when pushing making a spacefaring society – never build a new thing unless your current thing is totally unusable. Skylab was still quite usable up until it re-entered the atmosphere. There would’ve been a lot of interesting stuff that could’ve been done to move us closer to becoming spacefaring, had we been able to start in the 80s.

    This is why I am forever pissed at Griffin’s decision on Constellation – he had 2 usuable rockets, already in existance (Delta IV and Atlas V), and he decided he needed more

    As for why we couldn’t use Constellation for those 2 things

    1. Constellation isn’t a platform or an infrastructure system – its a single use transportation system. First to earth orbit, and then, IF we spend enough money, to the moon. There is no way to add in propellant depot development, or the inclusion of an advanced deep space engine system – no way to include work on expandable habitat development, and so forth. Therefore, you can’t really use it as a tech development system

    2. Constellation is designed, developed, and operated using systems only designed for NASA – no one else. No private entity (whether company or individual or NGO) is in a position to contract for flying a Constellation mission, and even if you could find someone who wanted it, there is no mechanism in place to do so. You cannot say the same thing about CST-100, Dreamchaser, or Dragon. They are privately owned, privately run (relatively speaking) that are likely to find private markets, as well as NASA markets

    Additionally,

    Wouldn’t developing Constellation have helped us on both those fronts and also been a mahjor “drawcard” attracting public interest and boosting national morale as well?

    it was never going to be a major drawcard for attracting public interest, or boosting national morale, not in any meaningful sense. America doesn’t sit on the edge of its seat for space missions, not in any meaningful sense. Fundamentally, Americans want to GO to space, as in they personally, not a few people from the US. Without that – yea, its cool and all, but we’ll still be more interested in JWooo and Snooki.

    Finally, its only an investment if its building usable infrastructure.

    74 Oli

    First, you missed the point I said about whether government should pay for that. I could go either way on that.

    Second – in 2010, Obama requested $ 171.3 Million for the National Endwoment for the Humanities. In 2009, the budget or the National Endowment for the Arts was $144.7 Million.

    And lets remember how much the NASA budget alone is? Oh, thats right, its in the double digit Billions. That would be 50-60 times either the either the Arts or the Humanities.

    Somehow, I don’t see how your argument has water.

  76. Lots of defenders of the ISS’s role in science, but I don’t see much reason to buy it. Yes, there is some science. Yes, there are engineering achievements. But if you are going to claim that it’s been useful for research, I expect a little evidence, and evidence in the sciences is usually measured in terms of peer-reviewed publications. Where are the ISS’s publications?

    Frankly, there are very few, and instead there are silly defenses like “have you ever tried to crystallise a protein? It’s actually really hard to do”. Uh huh. Is it $100 billion hard? That kind of money amounts to several years’ worth of NIH funding, and NIH supports something like 80,000 peer-reviewed publications a year.

    There are other reasons to support the ISS or a manned space program (although I personally don’t find them very compelling). But let’s at least be honest about the costs and benefits. It’s not about the science, and it never was.

  77. Ferris Valyn

    gribley – actually, we can point to a HUGE engineering achievement – large scale in-space construction. You could not do ISS the way it is designed IF you didn’t develop the techniques for that.

    Pure science – thats more of an open question, although I see possibilities.

    Part of the issue it hasn’t done much science is its been under construction for a while (and there are some internal NASA issues, as well)

  78. What a pity the first line of this article is balony. Mir got within 3 weeks of ten years of 10 years, so unless you care about decimal places they got their first in principle, and probably woudl have gotten there in practice if *someone* hadn’t wanted to get that record for their own nationality.

    I woudl also question the assumption that the money has already been spent. Given the history of the ISS programme and the intended lifespan of its components, it’s unlikely we’ve reached the end of major capital expenditure.

    And in the midsts of all the manned/unmanned argument – has anyone wondered how many salyut stations we coudl have gotten for that $100B? I think 10-20 of those might have gotten more done. And if you spent $50B of that on reusable rocketry, you probably coudl have gotten 100 salyuts or 10 ISS class stations AND all those unmanned probes AND a lot of other things out of that budget.

  79. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 78. Ferris Valyn : Thanks for your reply there. :-)

    I’ll have to get back to you on that later .. must get some sleep now, sorry.

  80. Messier Tidy Upper

    @78. Ferris Valyn Says:

    First rule when pushing making a spacefaring society – never build a new thing unless your current thing is totally unusable.

    Hmm .. I’m not so sure of that.

    To me, it would make more sense to be constantly trying to improve on, design and build a range of new things and missions so that there’s a range of options and successors ready to take over from the current thing once its no longer “the latest & greatest” thing.

    I wish we’d started planning and building better “mark II” shuttle(s) and Apollo(s) as soon as we could. Waiting for the current thing to get old and worn first before we go on with then next program so is, well, not ideal surely?

    Isn’t your “only one program at a time” approach why we’re in the mess we’re in with the long seemingly indefinite gap between the Shuttle and whatever NASA’s next US public space heavy launcher is going to be? :-(

    Skylab was still quite usable up until it re-entered the atmosphere. There would’ve been a lot of interesting stuff that could’ve been done to move us closer to becoming spacefaring, had we been able to start in the 80s.

    Agreed. So many missed opportunities post-Apollo. Sigh. :-(

    The United States of America was wa-aay out in front in space exploration and development and rocket technology. It got complacent and didn’t take advantage of it. It had won the space race and beaten the Evil Soviet Empire and so it stopped and rested and failed to realise there was a new race going on, that the space race *never* truly ends.

    After the early Shuttle days when the wonderful new reusuable spaceplane was in its first prime, it seems we stagnated and stopped doing “exciting” and “new”, got relaxed about “Mars one day ..but not yet” took the manyana* attitude to further progress -and so made very little & wnet backwards relative to past capabilities eg. human lunar missions.

    I’d like to see an unstopping, bold parallel development approach where there’s always plans and action for new machinery and launch systems. One where we never stop or pause in building, launching and flying new spacecraft. Where as soon as one craft is built and successful, another is already beginning to take shape and is getting ready for its first flights. Where space programs overlap and there are more choices for doing more and different things.

    Imagine having Ares-Constellation taking its first flights along with the Dragon capsule along with Shuttle-C / DIRECT whilst having an updated mark II Apollo and the current Space Shuttle still flying regularly. Imagine if missions of the Shuttle to the ISS were interspersed with a larger trip to Mars on the first nuclear rockets stopping off at a Lunar colony on the way? Ah, if only..

    ————

    * With the extra linguistic marks for the Spanish / Mexican word for that mood expression thingummy goes. Not sur eif I’ve spelt it right either, you know what I mean, I hope. ;-)

  81. Messier Tidy Upper

    @78. Ferris Valyn – continued, Part II :

    As for why we couldn’t use Constellation for those 2 things

    1. Constellation isn’t a platform or an infrastructure system – its a single use transportation system. First to earth orbit, and then, IF we spend enough money, to the moon. There is no way to add in propellant depot development, or the inclusion of an advanced deep space engine system – no way to include work on expandable habitat development, and so forth. Therefore, you can’t really use it as a tech development system

    Okay, I get what your saying here. I would think we could still learn something from it though .. even if its just another way to do lunar rockets and missions. I find it very hard to beleive we’d learn nothing useful about space technology and how we can do things from it.

    2. Constellation is designed, developed, and operated using systems only designed for NASA – no one else.

    This is a problem because .. ? ;-)

    If its a NASA program then it makes sense to be an all-NASA program for purely NASA usage. Something that is all-& fully NASA’s.

    Besides it can complement other things and people working on <Constellation can move on from that program to other programs & groups later taking experience and knowledge out of it, right?

    No private entity (whether company or individual or NGO) is in a position to contract for flying a Constellation mission, and even if you could find someone who wanted it, there is no mechanism in place to do so.

    Yet. ;-)

    Had it gone ahead & worked well enough such a mechanism could have been added or NASA could have shared or better sold the blueprints for making more such rockets couldn’t it?

    You cannot say the same thing about CST-100, Dreamchaser, or Dragon. They are privately owned, privately run (relatively speaking) that are likely to find private markets, as well as NASA markets

    Good for them – really. :-)

    I’d like them to work and suceed but as complementary programs and agencies also doing stuff in space along with NASA and Constellation rather than as replacements to them.

    Additionally, … [Constellation] … was never going to be a major drawcard for attracting public interest, or boosting national morale, not in any meaningful sense. America doesn’t sit on the edge of its seat for space missions, not in any meaningful sense.

    Which is something that never fails to baffle or sadden me. :-(

    How the US population could lose interest in flying to the Moon, could lose so much national pride in their space program so badly, so fast and regard their champions advancing and representing them, *their* values and *their* way of life with such unreasonable indifference and disdain is something I don’t think I’ll ever understand. :-(

    Fundamentally, Americans want to GO to space, as in they personally, not a few people from the US. Without that – yea, its cool and all, but we’ll still be more interested in JWooo and Snooki.

    That’s just .. Aaaarrrgggh. :-(

    What the blazes was / is wrong with those people!

    Finally, its only an investment if its building usable infrastructure.

    I disagree.

    If something boosts national confidence, inspires a new generation to learn & appreciate science and dream of doing better, lifts the mood of a whole country and delivers pyschological, political, diplomatic and other less than tangible but still very real benefits then I think it *is* an investment even if there’s no “useable infrastructure” produced. :-)

  82. Messier Tidy Upper

    * With the extra linguistic marks for the Spanish / Mexican word for that mood expression thingummy goes. Not sure if I’ve spelt it right either [Nope - see below], you know what I mean, I hope.

    The Spanish word mañana which means “tomorrow” or “morning” but with implications of indefinitely, later, procrastination – that’s what I was meaning.

    Thankyou Wikipedia once again.

  83. Ferris Valyn

    Yea, I could’ve phrased that better, I grant. I should say
    1. Don’t throw away stuff that still has good shelf life in it.
    2. Don’t build new stuff that doesn’t fit within the necessary development frame that will make us a spacefaring society, with particular focus on lowering the dollars per exploration traveled

    Imagine having Ares-Constellation taking its first flights along with the Dragon capsule along with Shuttle-C / DIRECT whilst having an updated mark II Apollo and the current Space Shuttle still flying regularly. Imagine if missions of the Shuttle to the ISS were interspersed with a larger trip to Mars on the first nuclear rockets stopping off at a Lunar colony on the way? Ah, if only..

    Not really. You are too focused on the rockets themselves. For the amount of money you’d spend on all of that, you could be doing a lot more, such as bases on the moon, likely on mars, and asteroid trips.

    Regarding learning something from Orion – I have no doubt we could. Thats not the point – we learned a LOT from the shuttle, but it was a failure, as far as fulfilling its original mission. We got a lot of usable stuff from it, but it never delivered on its original purpose.

    This is a problem because .. ? ;-)

    Its a problem because NASA doesn’t have unlimited funds. It needs to ensure every dollar it spends gets the maximum value

    If its a NASA program then it makes sense to be an all-NASA program for purely NASA usage. Something that is all-& fully NASA’s.

    But NASA jumped the gun, and didn’t bother asking if there were other groups that may be able to help it stretch its dollar farther.

    Besides it can complement other things and people working on can move on from that program to other programs & groups later taking experience and knowledge out of it, right?

    Working in parallel doesn’t mean its going to compliment other things. Having the Ares I launch vehicle (which has NEVER a successful launch, as opposed to Delta IV) doesn’t in anyway change the game, beyond having another medium launcher – it doesn’t lower cost, it doesn’t add new tech, it doesn’t bring a new funding source to the table, etc.

    The point is, to be complimentary, you have to bring new capabilities to the table – Ares I never did that. Something like this – http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/AffordableExplorationArchitecture2009.pdf – would be complimentary. New vehicles and tech gets developed, and new funding sources present themselves.

    Had it gone ahead & worked well enough such a mechanism could have been added or NASA could have shared or better sold the blueprints for making more such rockets couldn’t it?

    The blueprints aren’t the issue. The issue is the infrastructure & costs associated with Constellation going forward, as is. ONLY the US government can afford a constellation program, and since it doesn’t allow for the inclusion of new tech, nor open up markets, no one else is going to use it. In short, its a guaranteed dead end.

    I’d like them to work and suceed but as complementary programs and agencies also doing stuff in space along with NASA and Constellation rather than as replacements to them.

    Then it had better be complimentary. Complimentary means new capabilities, or new resources, or new funding sources.

    Ares I provides NONE of that. You want complimentary – that pdf I linked to is complimentary. Thats how you do a lunar mission, using Commercial Space & NASA together.

    Concerning the American public – its not that hard to understand – Fundamentally, the American public ITSELF wants to go. NASA was expected to provide that, and never did. Thus, America lost interest. You give them the tools to actually go – they’ll sit up and take notice quickly.

    This is why there is the new interest in commercial space – it provide a road for any American (not just the superman astronauts) to go to space.

    If something boosts national confidence, inspires a new generation to learn & appreciate science and dream of doing better, lifts the mood of a whole country and delivers pyschological, political, diplomatic and other less than tangible but still very real benefits then I think it *is* an investment even if there’s no “useable infrastructure” produced.

    Except, Constellation doesnt’ do any of that.

  84. Darth Fader

    I’d say we should continue to build and build off it.

    Soon it would resemble a massive “Sky Hook”.

    Then we could start ferrying down the Wookies to clean this planet up!

  85. Bob

    I vote for a restaurant at the end of the universe.

  86. Phil,
    I was wondering if you ever saw the movie ‘Love’, about the last astronaut on the space station?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZ43ZlZcq-A&feature=related/

  87. Brayden

    @1 Also, the wear and tear on these if they did would be extreme and the cost of keeping them working and the maintenance would also be too extreme to handle.
    You know how the American government is on space projects…

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