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The ISS Marks 10 Years In Space

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the first-steps-to-a-spacefaring-civilization dept.

Space 153

Matt_dk writes to point out the upcoming tenth anniversary of the International Space Station in two days' time. "On 20 November 1998, a Russian Proton rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome for a historic mission: It was carrying the first module of the International Space Station ISS, named Zarya (Russian for 'dawn'). This cargo and control module, which weighs about 20 tonnes and is almost 13 meters long, provides electrical power, propulsion, flight path guidance and storage space. The launch of the module... heralded a new era in space exploration, as, for the first time ever, lasting cooperation in space was achieved between Russia, the US, Europe, Canada and Japan. Over the next ten years, many other modules were brought into orbit, and ISS developed into the largest human outpost in space. Since that time, the building blocks, transported by Russian launch vehicles or the US Space Shuttle, have expanded the ISS to the size of a soccer pitch and a current total mass of about 300 tons."

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Pee (2, Funny)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807403)

Based on yesterday's story, am I correct in assuming they had 10 years of NOT having to drink recycled pee?

Re:Pee (0, Troll)

hagardtroll (562208) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807487)

No, the ISS is not officially outfitted with Tranya dispensers. Meeting out that liquid refreshment to the delight and enjoyment of the ISS staff. Had a tough day aligning the offset gyro navigation system? Here, cool down and relax with a large tumbler filled with your favorite refreshment. The Tranya, it goes down smooth. With each sip, the tensions of the day are belched up with that delicious citrus after taste. Tranya! Its not just for star ship attacks. Today's Tranya drinkers are cool, invigorated successful and precocious imbibers. Enjoy!

Re:Pee (4, Insightful)

symes (835608) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807489)

We all drink recycled pee - there's only so much water on this planet and, according to some estimates, most of it has been drunk eight times already. So unless they were drinking outer space water, rather than earth water, they most certainly were drinking recycled pee for the past ten years.

Re:Pee (4, Funny)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807631)

Water, the refreshing beverage that rusts pipes, and fish fuck in!

Makes recycled pee seem tame by comparison.

Re:Pee (4, Funny)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808485)

What'll really blow your mind is the amount of recycled T-rex farts you breath on a daily basis.

Re:Pee (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809175)

Now with Electrolytes!

Re:Pee (3, Funny)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807633)

We all drink recycled pee - there's only so much water on this planet and, according to some estimates, most of it has been drunk eight times already. So unless they were drinking outer space water, rather than earth water, they most certainly were drinking recycled pee for the past ten years.

Our destiny is clear we must mine Haleys Comet for water.

Re:Pee (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808603)

I think I heard that Evian was developing a Martian rover capable of bottling ice from the icecaps.

And you thought $3/bottle was expensive.....

And for what? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807465)

10 years and what have we really achieved with this (apart from spending billions)???

Re:And for what? (5, Insightful)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807523)

"Lasting cooperation in space was achieved between Russia, the US, Europe, Canada and Japan..."

I'd say that's pretty remarkable.

=Smidge=

Lasting? (2, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807573)

Time will tell.

-God

Re:Lasting? (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807711)

"God is dead."
- Nietzsche

"Nietzsche is dead."
- God

"God is Nietzsche."
- The Grateful Dead

=Smidge=

Re:And for what? (4, Interesting)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807943)

The most important result we've got from it so far is practical experience in keeping people alive in a closed microgravity environment in the long term. That's not enough to justify the cost, but it shouldn't be forgotten.

I'm also hopeful that the talk of an orbit change for it towards the end of the construction phase turn out to be true. One of the major reasons why it's just a science platform rather than the practical orbital staging area for more ambitious projects that sci-fi always told us space stations would be is its silly orbit. It's very low and at a high inclination, partly so that Soyuz flights can reach it, which makes it useless for holding components of multi-launch assembled-in-space missions. To go from the ISS's current orbit to a transfer orbit to any of the fun places in the solar system would take a significant fraction of the fuel needed to launch in the first place.

Re:And for what? (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808353)

10 years and what have we really achieved with this (apart from spending billions)?

The concept of gravity-free materials research sounded good at the time, but it just has strangely not panned out. Perhaps because its cheaper to fake the process on the ground than pay for the real deal up there.

It would be nice if they invented healthy donuts and flying cars up there to justify it all, but so far itsa bust.
   

Re:And for what? (2, Interesting)

Spikeles (972972) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810295)

Well according to NASA [nasa.gov] , not that much really:
  • SpiraFlex® Resistance Exercise Device
  • ZipNut
  • Personal Cabin Pressure Altitude Monitor and Warning System
  • AiroCide TiO2
  • Robotic Arms
  • Fast Cooking
  • waste water purification
  • 360Â Camera
  • Golf Clubs
  • Low Vision Enhancement System

wait a second... (1)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807491)

I was under the impression that in (post-)Soviet Russia, Proton rocket carriers YOU to space as the first module of the ISS.

How much does it weigh in space? (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807527)

weighs about 20 tonnes

I assume you mean it weights about 196kN. On Earth. At sea level.

How much does it weigh in space?

Re:How much does it weigh in space? (4, Insightful)

CensorshipDonkey (1108755) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807653)

Newton is a measurement of force, and therefore weight, not mass, as you point out. However, pounds are ALSO a unit of force, not mass, and therefore tons (2,000 pounds) is weight. I think your pedantry is wrong, you've merely converted from Imperial weight/force to metric weight/force.

Re:How much does it weigh in space? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807863)

Bzzt! Ton is an imperial unit, but tonne (which the submitter used) is a metric unit (1 tonne = 1000 kg). So the submitter did, in fact, mix up mass and weight.

The GP converted from metric mass to metric weight/force (it would have been clearer to convert from metric mass to imperial weight, but where's the fun in that :>)

Re:How much does it weigh in space? (2, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808593)

A pound is both a unit of force and a unit of mass. As a unit of mass it is 0.45359237 kilogram by definition. As a force, a pound is defined as 0.45359237 kg × 9.80665 m/s^2 = 4.4482216152605 N (exactly)

Typically though, the word pound refers to force, and the pound mass is sometimes referred to as a slug.

Re:How much does it weigh in space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807721)

A little less than it does on earth. But it's moving very, very fast.

Re:How much does it weigh in space? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807901)

About 85% of what it weighs on earth depending on altitude. You aren't weightless in space, you essentially experience continual freefall.

Re:How much does it weigh in space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807937)

You are (close to) weightless if you move to the intergalactic void. But then the only hotel would be a HoJo, and who wants to stay there?

Vomit Comit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809651)

Is that why my office elevator is nicknamed the "Vomit Comit?"

Re:How much does it weigh in space? (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807959)

The weight on earth is actually more interesting and important than what it weighs in space. Every ounce of the ISS started here on earth and had to be pushed up into space. That's the trickiest part of this whole thing.

Re:How much does it weigh in space? (1)

IamBitBit (1354381) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809053)

According to my physics teacher: 1. You weigh essentially the same in earth orbit as you do on earth, there is only a very slight difference. 2. When something is orbiting a planet it is moving so fast that it is falling around it. Imagine this,the ISS is moving really fast over a really flat large piece of ground, not a planet. It will eventually hit it. Now imagine that it is over a planet, it is falling towards the ground but as it is moving so fast,the planet is falling away before it hits it. So if you moved very fast indeed you could (disregarding obstacles and the whole friction thing, orbit a meter of the ground or less Yes as you can imagine, it was put far more eloquently by my teacher but that is essentially it. The reason I included (2) is just to clear up the whole weightlessness myth.

Should it really cost as much as it does? (4, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807537)

I'm a big space geek, don't get me wrong. I'm all for space stuff. But I'm horrified when I look at the price tags on these projects. Should they really cost this much? Are we sure that there isn't a lot of contractor pocket-lining going on? It seems to me like we're using a lawn sprinkler to fill up a dixie cup. Yeah, it'll get the job done but it'll take about ten gallons of water to put five ounces in the cup.

If I seem disappointed and ungrateful it's just that putting rinky dink modular stations in orbit is 1970's technology. We should have moon colonies right now using mass drivers to fire off raw materials to the lagrange points where we'd be building giant wheel and cylinder habitats.

Looking at our space program, it's like going back home and seeing the people you went to school with who peaked in high school and are hanging around the old haunts just looking underachieving and pathetic. I mean yeah, it's cool to point and laugh if these were the people you hated in high school but if they were your friends, it's just very sad. NASA peaked as Apollo and has been underachieving ever since.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (5, Insightful)

arkhan_jg (618674) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807727)

The standard estimated total cost of the ISS (difficult to measure precisely given the multinational aspect) is between $50 billion and $100 billion. Over 10 years.

In comparison, the US military budget for 2009 is $711 billion. $10 billion is spent a month in Iraq alone. total estimated cost of that war so far over 6 years? $660 billion, and that's just US costs.

Going into space for long periods safely, or as safely as is practicable anyway, is very, very hard. I'm not saying the ISS is cheap, but it's not bad in the grand scheme of things.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (3, Insightful)

savuporo (658486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807971)

I'm not saying the ISS is cheap, but it's not bad in the grand scheme of things.
Whether its bad or not can only be measured against the results it has delivered for the money or will deliver. Can you outline those in a concise manner for us ?

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25808703)

Can you outline those in a concise manner for us ?

That exercise is left for truly curious.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (3, Funny)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808935)

Whether its bad or not can only be measured against the results it has delivered for the money or will deliver. Can you outline those in a concise manner for us ?

Well, to be fair, ISS really hasn't accomplished all that much. So, for the same benefit, it was a much better return on investment when compared to invading Iraq.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809971)

Laugh now, but I'm sure that when you're hiking in ten years time and are drinking your own recycled urine out of a bottle, you'll be glad that we forced astronauts to drink their own pee. :)

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (1)

Macrat (638047) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808051)

And the Apollo program was shut down due to all the funding going into dropping bombs in Vietnam.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (2, Funny)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808425)

$1 is $1.

Relating it to other, more expensive, projects does not make it any less exppensive or justified. It just shows how we spend/waste money in other ways.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (1)

ThreeE (786934) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808759)

What evidence do you have that "it's not bad?" As savuporo said, show me the results it has delivered that even approach $50-100B.

Furthermore, how is the US military budget a comparison? The US military has a completely different mission. Perhaps you thought the US military is wasteful and thus justifies ISS waste -- it doesn't -- two wrongs don't make a right. Perhaps you just wanted to demonstrate scale -- $50B buys a fuckload of Big Macs. In the end, your second paragraph is a complete non sequitur.

Another thing: going into space isn't that hard -- or at least it isn't harder than a lot of things we do regularly. I am so tired of this rocket science myth. Open heart surgery is hard too. The difference is that there is value in open heart surgery so we do it a lot -- so we have learned how to manange the complexity and risks. Show me the value of spaceflight and it will cease being so "hard."

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809685)

On the flip side, robotic exploration of the solar system (Mars rovers, Cassini orbiter, Pluto flyby, etc.) runs around $2 billion/year. It's likely that were ISS not hoovering up money, at least some of that $50-$100 billion would have gone to the robotic exploration (especially since cost overruns in one place tend to tie up funds from other places). Even a small fraction of that money could have greatly enhanced our exploration. So while I agree that ISS is cheap compared to the DoD, it's still a ton of money that could have (depending on how you value things) probably done more elsewhere.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (2, Funny)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807735)

"Looking at our space program, it's like going back home and seeing the people you went to school with who peaked in high school and are hanging around the old haunts just looking underachieving and pathetic. I mean yeah, it's cool to point and laugh"

I thought I saw you by the old gym the other day. It wasn't nice of you to point and laugh at me.

free market vs. government (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807763)

The governments of the world have a monopoly on space exploration.

When it is clear that there is money to be made, and the governments get out of the way, we'll see amazing leaps in our capabilities and accomplishments in space.

And, I kid you not, a big part of what will get us there is the not-yet-established zero-G porn genre.

Re:free market vs. government (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809187)

But IS there money to be made? It costs a lot of money to get stuff into space and exploration doesn't tend to make much money.

Re:free market vs. government (0)

2short (466733) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810287)

"But IS there money to be made?"

No, of course not. It's fantastically expensive to get to, and there is literally nothing there.

Re:free market vs. government (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809713)

spare us the libertarian ideological claptrap. Your beloved 'free market' is way behind on space exploration because (as the recent crisis has shown) its ability to price things up, especially risks, is actually quite weak - as opposed to being omniscient as you lot claim it is.

Pork barrel boondoggle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807799)

The space station was just a bureaucratic boondoggle to give the space shuttle something to do and to justify another reusable launch vehicle system. And yes, some pocket lining pork barrel spending was also part of the scope of the project. Directing so many resources to this project makes me sick.

To further technology and space science was not its real purpose. I would be very surprised if there was any truly new technology developed for it as opposed to rehashing some existing tech from the 70s as you have pointed out.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (4, Insightful)

AsnFkr (545033) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807955)

NASA peaked as Apollo and has been underachieving ever since.

I agree with you (for the most part) on this statement relating to manned space exploration, but NASA has had much success in robotic space exploration in the past 40 years that should not be ignored.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (5, Interesting)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808397)

NASA peaked as Apollo and has been underachieving ever since.

I see that line of thinking as somewhat skewed. We went to the moon, what was left to do? Mars? Not with 1975 tech. I just don't see that being feasible. Sure, we sidetracked ourselves in terms of long distance exploration with the Shuttle, but does the communications revolution that has taken place since the mid 70's happen without NASA trucking up the school-bus sized satellites of the late 70s and early 80's? Sure you can throw those up with rockets, but the shuttle doesn't do a *bad* job of moving big-ass cargo into space.

NASA gets hounded because countries like India and China are now doing things like sending probes to the moon in India's case, and manned spacewalks in China's case. While those are great accomplishments, we were doing those things with slide rules and navigation computers that has 4k of memory and a few hundred lines of code.

China and India pulling off these "stunning accomplishments" while standing firmly on the shoulders of giants. They're booking plane tickets to Cleveland online and being treated like true aviation pioneers, and NASA is being told "What have you done lately Orville and Wilbur? That stupid little biplane thingie? who cares about that anymore. You guys suck."

Where are the Japanese Mars rovers? Where is the Indian Space agency's ISS module? Gosh, it's awfully nice that India has managed to bounce a glorified digital camera off of the moon. That's awesome. Maybe NASA can budget for something cool like that once they're done with that whole "New Horizons" probe that's on its way to Pluto.

Yeah, there are a ton of bureaucratic nightmares in the NASA that weigh down our successes. Mind blowing awesomeness gets shouted down because someone forgot to do a metric-imperial conversion. But NASA is helping *private industry* do things that other nations space programs are trying to get a handle on. (X-prize anyone?)

NASA isn't hanging around the high school parking lot. They're the kid that's easy to pick on because he moved out of town and got his masters degree....while the rest of the world is still talking about how cool it has to have a diploma. We don't have a perfect space agency, but in the face of a red-tape, agenda driven, too-screwed-up-to-be-a-dilbert-cartoon middle management nightmare, we are still doing things that no other space agency in the world is doing. The only group that is even close is a consortium of TEN other nations.

Explain to me again why that isn't cool?

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808915)

I see that line of thinking as somewhat skewed. We went to the moon, what was left to do? Mars? Not with 1975 tech. I just don't see that being feasible. Sure, we sidetracked ourselves in terms of long distance exploration with the Shuttle, but does the communications revolution that has taken place since the mid 70's happen without NASA trucking up the school-bus sized satellites of the late 70s and early 80's? Sure you can throw those up with rockets, but the shuttle doesn't do a *bad* job of moving big-ass cargo into space.

What's left to do? Here's some short-term ideas, many cribbed from The High Frontier.

1. Build a proper big dumb booster, something that can throw a ridiculous amount of cargo into space. Don't care whether or not its reusable, just make it cheap. We can send the crew on a separate vehicle since man-rating rockets is so expensive.

2. Lunar colony for science and resource extraction. We can get a lot of usable construction material from the moon and thus reduce the amount of mass that needs to be sent up from the Earth for anything complicated we're building.

3. Asteroid capture mission for resources we can't find easily on the Moon. Plenty of apollo object asteroids to prospect.

4. Orbital habitats in L4 and L5, built with material mined on the moon.

5. Orbital power sats, constructed at the lagrange habitats. The technology originally talked about would use large mirrors to concentrate solar energy on a turbine system. Fluid is heated, expands, flows through turbine where the energy is extracted mechanically, cools on the back side of the sat, repeat. The turbines generate electricity and that's beamed down to earth as microwaves, collected by rectennas on the ground.

6. Beanstalks!

Looking out further in the future, we could move most of our heavy industry out into space and just drop the resulting goods back down to Earth in recyclable containers. No more polluted environment, just a nice clean garden down here filled with contented people. And with all of that infrastructure in space, all that cheap access, the cost of scientific exploration with robotic probes would be peanuts.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (2, Insightful)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809283)

What's left to do? Here's some short-term ideas, many cribbed from The High Frontier.

It's not "what is left..." it's "what was left..." NASA probably went in a bad direction with the shuttles, but we still kept plugging forward.

NASA has gone a lot farther than they get credit for, and to compare the accomplishments of nations today to what NASA (and the USSR. We spent a great deal of time just trying to catch them.) did literally 40 years ago is almost insulting.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (5, Interesting)

carambola5 (456983) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808577)

As one who has formerly worked on NASA contracts (and hopes to continue to do so in the future... just because it's so damn cool), I can assure you of two things:

-You are right, and
-You are wrong.

You are right in that there is some fat that could be skimmed from the process; there is some highly skilled labor that sits idly as projects continue onward.

You are wrong, however, to assume that space technology is getting cheaper by the minute, and the industry should be able to continue along at the same speed as... say, consumer electronics. Designing for space is crazy-expensive.... ridiculously expensive... and the problem isn't NASA or its subcontractors. It's the vendors.

NASA and its subcontractors make stuff. We either design it from scratch (frequently), update an off-the-shelf item (sometimes), or just use an off-the-shelf item unmodified (rarely).

Designing from scratch costs the most in terms of high- and low-skilled labor (think engineers and mill operators) and material. It's also the most frequent due to the many requirements of spaceflight: radiation hardened, extremely light weight, strict volume requirements, high vibration launch environment, low outgassing, low flammability, etc.

Updating an off-the-shelf part is a little easier, but it still involves plenty of engineer time. In addition, the original part is usually on the extreme high-end of a vendor's offering. We can't have a coolant pump that has an MTBF of 2 years. It's gotta be 10. or more.

And finally, even if an off-the-shelf part is used by itself, it still needs brackets and an electrical interface (if necessary). Plus there's plenty of engineer time spent just to be sure that it's flight-worthy.

And finally, multiply all of these costs by the factor of not mass-producing this stuff. When you order only 5 specialized valves, the unit cost is going to balloon.

So, jollyreaper, I applaud your space geekiness. There are many like us. But designing and building for space is hard. And it costs a lot. Them's the facts.

Now, if we (the space industry as a whole) got a three-fold increase in funding... you'd really start to see some sweet stuff.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25808737)

"Horrified" by a few bucks? You've got to be kidding me!! How about a nice cup of "fsking reality"?

Add up the trillions in debt: Any collective solution will only compound our problems, because the cumulative debt will overwhelm us, make matters worse:

      1.
            America's credit rating may soon be downgraded below AAA
      2.
            Fed refusal to disclose $2 trillion loans, now the new "shadow banking system"
      3.
            Congress has no oversight of $700 billion, and Paulson's Wall Street Trojan Horse
      4.
            King Henry Paulson flip-flops on plan to buy toxic bank assets, confusing markets
      5.
            Goldman, Morgan lost tens of billions, but planning over $13 billion in bonuses this year
      6.
            AIG bails big banks out of $150 billion in credit swaps, protects shareholders before taxpayers
      7.
            American Express joins Goldman, Morgan as bank holding firms, looking for Fed money
      8.
            Treasury sneaks corporate tax credits into bailout giveaway, shifts costs to states
      9.
            State revenues down, taxes and debt up; hiring, spending, borrowing add even more debt
    10.
            State, municipal, corporate pensions lost hundreds of billions on derivative swaps
    11.
            Hedge funds: 610 in 1990, almost 10,000 now. Returns down 15%, liquidations up
    12.
            Consumer debt way up, now at $2.5 trillion; next area for credit meltdowns
    13.
            Fed also plans to provide billions to $3.6 trillion money-market fund industry
    14.
            Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are bleeding cash, want to tap taxpayer dollars
    15.
            Washington manipulating data: War not $600 billion but estimates actually $3 trillion
    16.
            Hidden costs of $700 billion bailout are likely $5 trillion; plus $1 trillion Street write-offs
    17.
            Commodities down, resource exporters and currencies dropping, triggering a global meltdown
    18.
            Big three automakers near bankruptcy; unions, workers, retirees will suffer
    19.
            Corporate bond market, both junk and top-rated, slumps more than 25%
    20.
            Retailers bankrupt: Circuit City, Sharper Image, Mervyns; mall sales in free fall
    21.
            Unemployment heading toward 8% plus; more 1930's photos of soup lines
    22.
            Government policy is dictated by 42,000 myopic, highly paid, greedy lobbyists
    23.
            China's sees GDP growth drop, crates $586 billion stimulus; deflation is now global, hitting even Dubai
    24.
            Despite global recession, U.S. trade deficit continues, now at $650 billion
    25.
            The 800-pound gorillas: Social Security, Medicare with $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities
    26.
            Now 46 million uninsured as medical, drug costs explode
    27.
            New-New Deal: U.S. planning billions for infrastructure, adding to unsustainable debt
    28.
            Outgoing leaders handicapping new administration with huge liabilities
    29.
            The "antitaxes" message is a new bubble, a new version of the American
            dream offering a free lunch, no sacrifices, exposing us to more false promises

source: http://www.marketwatch.com/News/Story/Story.aspx?guid=b28b49b5efd14941b57ea2ba1545ba09

There, horrified now?? I would be horrified if someone cuts their science spending to focus on "real" problems. Science is the only way to fix our "real" problems and cutting it is worse than taking someone's pension away.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809403)

Should they really cost this much? Are we sure that there isn't a lot of contractor pocket-lining going on? It seems to me like we're using a lawn sprinkler to fill up a dixie cup. Yeah, it'll get the job done but it'll take about ten gallons of water to put five ounces in the cup.

Well you're designing and building highly complicated one use projects. Things are cheap in the modern age because once you create one you can sell a million. For space technology you can't spread out that R&D cost. You also have a situation where the requirements are incredibly high, and each time technology progresses so do the requirements. The problems aren't stagnant, everytime we come up with a solution, we start to ask more questions (can we make it more safe, more efficient, improve reliability, etc)

If I seem disappointed and ungrateful it's just that putting rinky dink modular stations in orbit is 1970's technology. We should have moon colonies right now using mass drivers to fire off raw materials to the lagrange points where we'd be building giant wheel and cylinder habitats.

The next logical steps aren't always an easy progression as one may think. We eradicated smallpox and polio 40 years ago, why aren't we now completely healthy supercreatures?

Looking at our space program, it's like going back home and seeing the people you went to school with who peaked in high school and are hanging around the old haunts just looking underachieving and pathetic. I mean yeah, it's cool to point and laugh if these were the people you hated in high school but if they were your friends, it's just very sad. NASA peaked as Apollo and has been underachieving ever since.

It's like going home and that talented music player who you thought could become a superstar now has a nice day job, a family, and plays in a band at night. It's not pathetic that he didn't reach the level of expectations you had for him. NASA has been doing some great real science over the past 20 years, and most of the problems have been around these putting people in space spectacles that have marginal value.

Re:Should it really cost as much as it does? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809573)

You're comparing reality to science fiction.

Reality is much harder. You can't relax natural laws; you have to go into the smallest detail; a much higher standard of quality is expected; and you have to pay a bunch of experts in many different fields to carry it out.

The fact is that chemical rockets are marginal for achieving orbit and will remain so for the forseeable future. Even if we get fusion in fifty years, it will be a long time before the reactor becomes lightweight and airworthy.

Add that to the fact that there is no compelling business reasons apart for comm sats to go to space, and you'll see that we'll remain at the current level of human presence in space, or drop lower, for at least a generation or two more.

In Soviet Space (3, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807549)

Space marks 10 years with ISS!

Typical "International" Effort (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807729)

As is usually the case, the US has footed over 75% of the bill.

Re:Typical "International" Effort (1)

Wescotte (732385) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808107)

Yeah but it all evens out because we never pay out debts anyway.

Re:Typical "International" Effort (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25808381)

That's true, but at the same time, the US has the most control over its utilization. Other contributors like the ESA are lucky to fly one astronaut every other year. Russia generally has at least one up, because they contributed two of the backbone modules, a significant amount of the resupply missions, and the Soyuz that is required to be kept docked for emergency evacuation.

Re:Typical "International" Effort (1)

j-cloth (862412) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808859)

...and taken 90% of the credit.

The largest human outpost in space... (1)

cunamara (937584) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807731)

...other than Planet Earth, right? And, how many other human outposts in space are there?

Who writes this stuff?

Re:The largest human outpost in space... (1)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807841)

The statement could be read to be inclusive of retired outposts like MIR and Skylab, in which case it would be correct.

Re:The largest human outpost in space... (1)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808017)

Mir and Skylab currently reside on earth. Mostly as dust, at least in the case of Skylab.

Re:The largest human outpost in space... (1)

satoshi1 (794000) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808713)

But they did reside in space at one point in time, hence their inclusion in the comparison.

Re:The largest human outpost in space... (1)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808755)

Like I said, the statement can be read two ways:

1) The largest human outpost in space (currently)

2) The largest human outpost in space (ever)

The latter interpretation would be inclusive of MIR and Skylab.

Re:The largest human outpost in space... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807977)

Can't wait to see where this thing lands when the time eventually comes for Big Blazing Re-entry to Earth .

For the rest of us... (2, Interesting)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807745)

How long is a soccer pitch? Why is it so hard to just give a size in meters?

And just how many elephants is 300 tons? ;)

Re:For the rest of us... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25807861)

How long is a meter? Why is so hard to just give a size in furlongs?

Re:For the rest of us... (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807877)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Football_pitch_metric.svg [wikipedia.org]

How hard is it to use Google? If I tell you that the ISS is about 100 meters long and half that wide, does that give you a good feeling for it's size? If you've ever been to a soccer game (which most people on the planet have), then the comparison gives you a mental picture. To translate into Imperial, think football field.

Re:For the rest of us... (1)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807963)

The point wasn't to use google to look it up. It was to point out how silly the wording was in the summary.

You're new to slashdot, aren't you?

Re:For the rest of us... (1)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808491)

Also your picture shows 90-120m x 45-90m - that I call precise metric.

Football pitches: your running may vary (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809471)

Ah well that's because football pitches (in USian, "soccer field" I think...) can vary in size. FIFA's Laws of the Game note minimum and maximum sizes for width and length of pitch: Page 7, Dimensions [fifa.com] . Teams are entitled to lay pitches anywhere within these dimensions which leads to learned followers on the terrace mulling about "narrow" and "wide" pitches favouring differing teams or players styles...

Just to confuse things further I believe these are approximate metric measures which have been translated from the original Imperial measures used in England, home of Association Football's Laws of the Game....

Re:For the rest of us... (1)

insane_membrane (1366135) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807887)

On average 100m...

Re:For the rest of us... (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807909)

How long is a soccer pitch?

It's about the length of a football field, including the endzones.

And just how many elephants is 300 tons?

I don't know how many elephants, but it's around 380 stripped honda civics.

Re:For the rest of us... (1)

earthbound kid (859282) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807931)

More importantly, who the hell says "soccer pitch"? Americans say "soccer field." Brits say "football pitch." No one says "soccer pitch."

Sounds like the writer was a Brit who tried to put it in Americanese but failed.

Re:For the rest of us... (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808319)

And just how many elephants is 300 tons?

I don't know how many elephants, but I do know that the number that makes up 300 tons has tripled in the past six months.

Re:For the rest of us... (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810401)

How long is a soccer pitch?

29.5 to 39.4 stories.

rj

What does it have to show for it ? (5, Insightful)

savuporo (658486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25807935)

So for these several tens of billions sunk, and the "World class science facility" still not being really operational, what does it have to show for this cash and ten years ?
How much technology advancement really has happened and what scientific goals have been accomplished ?

There has been some [nasa.gov] useful stuff, but wouldnt it be nice to see it all these shortly summarized in a table with the bottomline dollar drawn under it ?

A dish best served cold... (2, Funny)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808059)

The true, insidious purpose of the space station has yet to reveal itself. It's up there to allow for a new unit of measurement. Even with tons, tonnes, elephants, library of congresses, football fields, million millions, we don't have a good cubic-meter measurement yet. So we'll use the obvious choice, (how many xxx can fit into a car?)

We stuff clowns into cars to see how many cubic feet they can reasonably allow. The reason the US, Russia, Japan, and all our other friends are collaborating on this project is to get all of our clowns up there, stuffed into the space station, to see how many can fit, and this will be our new standard of measurement for cubic space. Then, once we've tallied how many tens of thousands of clowns can fit into the space station, we launch it into the sun.

I'd like to see anyone disagree that all the money has been ill-spent on this endeavor.

Re:A dish best served cold... (2, Funny)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808161)

The true, insidious purpose of the space station has yet to reveal itself. It's up there to allow for a new unit of measurement. Even with tons, tonnes, elephants, library of congresses, football fields, million millions, we don't have a good cubic-meter measurement yet. So we'll use the obvious choice, (how many xxx can fit into a car?) We stuff clowns into cars to see how many cubic feet they can reasonably allow. The reason the US, Russia, Japan, and all our other friends are collaborating on this project is to get all of our clowns up there, stuffed into the space station, to see how many can fit, and this will be our new standard of measurement for cubic space. Then, once we've tallied how many tens of thousands of clowns can fit into the space station, we launch it into the sun. I'd like to see anyone disagree that all the money has been ill-spent on this endeavor.

By clowns you mean lawyers right?

Re:A dish best served cold... (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808797)

I was thinking politicians.

Re:A dish best served cold... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25808857)

we don't have a good cubic-meter measurement yet. So we'll use the obvious choice, (how many xxx can fit into a car?)

We stuff clowns into cars to see how many cubic feet they can reasonably allow.

By clowns you mean lawyers right?

Lawyers fit real good, if you puree them first....

Will it blend??

Re:A dish best served cold... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25808223)

I suggest replacing clowns with telephone santizers.

Re:What does it have to show for it ? (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808685)

How much technology advancement really has happened and what scientific goals have been accomplished ?

That was all cut to save money. Sadly I'm not kidding. There is a short list here of scientific modules launched. Plenty more were budget cut or just simply won't be launched. The original plan had a hotel load around 2 people, which was fine since there would be like two dozen folks up there (hotel load is how much it takes to keep the place running and human habitable, from navy and submarine terminology). The problem is the life support equipment and "space lifeboat" never was launched, crew endlessly downsized, etc. So, since it only holds about 3 people on a regular basis, and the hotel load is always larger than originally planned, there isn't much time to do anything other than be space janitors / space superintendents. If they could have a staff of 20 up there as originally intended then quite a bit could have been done, but thats not happening.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station#Scientific_ISS_modules [wikipedia.org]

Part of the problem, as described below, is the only purpose of the shuttle, is to visit the station, and the only purpose of the station, is to be visited by the shuttle. So, since the station has already been downsized to the point of uselessness, and the shuttle is going away, guess what will happen to the station in just a few years?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station#Future_of_the_ISS [wikipedia.org]

Another part of the problem is the ISS was project managed as a one-time project or one-time stunt. Anyone who's ever spent time in a lab, in the military, or even in front of a computer, knows the original plan is obsolete as soon as it's written. Thats OK, invent a new plan. Except everything relating to ISS project management is a one time stunt. It's a permanent beta releast version 0.99 with no possibility of upgrade. There is no ability to do science if you can't iteratively experiment and try new ideas. And that's not how the ISS was project managed. Therefore it doesn't do science. It's a one time stunt and the stunt is about over.

Too bad, it could have been useful.

Re:What does it have to show for it ? (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810133)

Too bad, it could have been useful.

Even if all of the original scientific goals and plans for the ISS had been achieved, which would have been very ambitious indeed, it would still be an inefficient and wasteful expenditure of limited scientific and research and develop funds compared to alternative scientific uses. I am not personally qualified to decide what precisely would be the best combination of alternative uses of those monies, but neither is any other individual currently living on this planet. However, I am reasonably certain that the scientists of the world could have collectively and independently made much better use of the funds that went into what was essentially, as you pointed out, a space-cowboy style stunt. Until we have somewhere interesting to go and something like warp drive to get us there we really shouldn't be spending much at all on manned space flight.

Re:What does it have to show for it ? (2, Interesting)

Revolver4ever (860659) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808869)

How about the experience we now have in getting stuff into space and keeping it there! This is not easy!!! Just think of how many mistakes and subsequent successes had to take place to get the ISS up there and running. Now think that all these mistakes and successes will be directly used when we go forward in exploring beyond our orbit with bigger stations and spacecraft carrying humans towards Mars and beyond. The ISS is anything but useful. You must first crawl before you run? And so on.

Re:What does it have to show for it ? (1)

savuporo (658486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809139)

I admire your breathless optimism, but i must point out that we learned how to get stuff to space on 4th of October, 1957, we put our first crewed space station up and kept it there in 1973 and believe it or not, twelve men have walked and ran around on moon, rather than crawled.
The ISS is anything but useful indeed.

Now, go read some history books, learn a bit about what is actually being done in space today and then come back with even just one accomplishment on ISS that would be even remotely worth the money spent.

Re:What does it have to show for it ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809365)

The ISS is still the biggest structure ever created in orbit. Before the world starts putting up space colonies and gigantic orbiting solar array farms, they have to start somewhere. The ISS was the first space construction project. It is an engineering feat, not really a scientific feat. As a starting point for the future of space construction, I don't think the ISS was that bad an idea.

The ISS has been the pioneer for space construction systems. Check out some of the amazing robotics systems they use up there sometime.

Re:What does it have to show for it ? (1)

savuporo (658486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809507)

The ISS was the first space construction project
No it was not. Please, go read the history books.

As for your "engineering feat", you would apparently be willing to spend 50-100 billion to build a world biggest phallic monument, as long as its an engineering feat and teaches you how to build phallic monuments ?

The ISS has been pioneer on how _NOT_ to do space construction, its weakest point being dependence of one single launcher, which is soon to be decommissioned.

Re:What does it have to show for it ? (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809647)

Please qualify "We". In this case "We" means the US. The Soviets launched Salyut 1 in 1971.

The Soyuz 11 depressurization incident was upon departure from Salyut 1.

Re:What does it have to show for it ? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809371)

How about the experience we now have in getting stuff into space and keeping it there! This is not easy!!!

No, it is easy. Used commodity launchers/boosters to get the ISS up there, same as launch unmanned satellites. Just tossed up there like any other satellite. Did not develop any new launchers for the ISS. In fact we're getting rid of the primary launcher, the shuttle.

Now think that all these mistakes and successes will be directly used

No, that does not make money for contractors and no-invented-here is very popular in aerospace environments. Most certainly nothing will ever be re-used. The shuttle is not a saturn-V with wings, etc.

will be directly used when we go forward in exploring beyond our orbit with bigger stations and spacecraft carrying humans towards Mars and beyond

No need for another station. Classic politician move to get rid of a semi-popular project. Come up with a list of cool goals for a station, gradually cut them all to save money, then when it's time for version 2 ask "why, what did version 1 do for us anyway?". There are some pretty cool things that can be done with a space station. But that'll never happen on the ISS.

You must first crawl before you run? And so on.

It was a one time project. The designers were laid off in the 80s, the builders were laid off in the 90s, they're just pulling modules out of storage and boosting them today (slight exaggeration). If, today, we decided to do something new with the station, or to upgrade some component to a more evolved design, we'd have to start at the utter beginning and it would take at least 20 years. Of course they'll be deorbiting the station shortly after the shuttle program ends in two years, so why bother. As for crawl before you run, this is more like, put on a single one time demonstration of crawling (running was downsized to save money) and then quit. There is no future plan of bigger and brighter things.

If only the ISS were project managed correctly... A continuously developing experimental laboratory in space with continually expanding capabilities. Physical science labs full of people and electron microscopes and crystallography gear. A zoo and garden of growing things and the scientists to study them. A liquid fuel tank farm for spacecraft refueling. A warehouse of supplies for interplanetary trips. A building of (very) light industry. The worlds most amazing radio reception and transmission site. R+D labs for experimental geophysical research. A final assembly point for exotic non-atmospheric star-ships. A fully staffed experimental astronomical observatory where new concepts in UV and Xray telescopes are tried. An isolated lab in space to process return samples from other planets. A satellite repair shop to catch, fix, and release communications satellites. Probably a classified military observation post with literally cutting edge sigint and optical gear. A (tiny) research hospital with doctors and microscopes.

However, after the budget cuts what we got was an orbiting RV with a porta-potty.

Re:What does it have to show for it ? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810195)

So for these several tens of billions sunk, and the "World class science facility" still not being really operational

Looked at the budget and construction time for the LHC recently? You know the one, it's down for six months and $21 million dollars because of the failure of a minor part. Facilities like this, even without the narrow logistics pipeline of rockets take a long time and a lot of money to build - they aren't ordered off of the shelf.
 
 

what does it have to show for this cash and ten years? How much technology advancement really has happened and what scientific goals have been accomplished?

Well, consider just the ESA ATV - a considerable leap in space operations and logistics. Consider the engineering experience gained by NASA in developing and operating systems with applicability towards future Lunar and Mars exploration. Etc... Etc... No, I didn't forget the Russians - it's just that as far as advances go, they are off the bottom of the charts. All they've brought to the table is refurbished 1980's technology, and they haven't improved it much. (Like the problematical Elektron O2 generator.)
 
 

There has been some useful stuff, but wouldnt it be nice to see it all these shortly summarized in a table with the bottomline dollar drawn under it?

Pretty hard to do that for an incomplete and not fully operational facility. Pointless too.

What the heck is a "soccer pitch" (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25808147)

Is it anything like a Library of Congress meaurement, or a station-wagon full of 9-track tapes?
Or is it a certain number of volkswagon beetles laid end to end?
I know about baseball pitches and soccer fields, but not a "soccer pitch"
Help! I'm Canadian, eh.

Joost (1)

quadrofolio (971489) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808261)

Why have there not been more studies into using railgun-like technology to fire large mass objects like satellites, fuel and raw building materials into space to use there? Something like a monorail bullet train on speed (traveling in a large looped track under vacuum to gain speed and then being ejected to a very big ramp for the shoot up into the sky) You could even build up speed gradually so even sensitive equipment such as satellites wouldn't have to suffer from acceleration. How fast should a streamlined package need to go if you fire it up that way? Anyone?

Re:Joost (2, Funny)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808567)

Shooting stuff into space has been tried already. But it ended badly, with an eye being put out. [filmsite.org]

Re:Joost (1)

quadrofolio (971489) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808715)

Heheheh. i can see what you mean :) but still. Must be possible. Accelerate the ship gradually till something like 20.000 Km/Hour and let her rip!

Re:Joost (1)

SLOviper (763177) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809193)

I think this [newscientist.com] is what you're looking for.
There have also been US military studies done on the topic and there is a contest brewing [lifeboat.com] as well.
Exciting times. :-)

Re:Joost (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809329)

We already have a gradually accelerating system, it's called a rocket. To accelerate to escape velocity at a survivable force you'd need a hugeass railgun, something on the order of several kilometers height. A tower that tall wouldn't be very easy to stabilize and cost a crapton of money.

Accelerating in a loop or using a ramp still has the issue that the centipetal force must not get too big.

Shuttle is a lot of the cost. (3, Insightful)

nacnud75 (963443) | more than 5 years ago | (#25808325)

Well a lot of the cost is the inefficient nature of the Shuttle launch system. Every launch of the shuttle puts 110 tonnes in orbit, but around 90% of that is the shuttle itself. Rather than 10s of launches the ISS could have been put up with a handful of NLS [astronautix.com] launches freeing the shuttle for what it does best, servicing a space station and bringing samples back.

Re:Shuttle is a lot of the cost. (1)

Earthpaladin (1410291) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809149)

Another idea, is after the ISS station is done, perhaps we could do a similiar thing with a moonbase. With the U.S. taking the lead, and other nations taking supportive roles. That would be less costly then doing it ourselves. For example, if India, and Japan went in with us, it would help them improve their programs, and we might be able to do it faster. Continuing on that idea if India and Japan were to help us on our next generation spacecraft, it might get the next generation spacecraft ready sooner at less expense. For example, if they loaned us some engineers or perhaps some monetary contribution to do help with the development. They could get access to plans and other things from us.

Whats that in the background? (1)

Tmack (593755) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810205)

is it a moon?
Thats no moon! Its a space station!!

To think, if we changed launch vehicles for payloads, we could have our very own deathstar by now!

tm

Re:Shuttle is a lot of the cost. (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#25810235)

Which would have resulted in a station even more expensive - as the cost of developing the launch vehicle, building the infrastructure to support it, and finally operating it would have been amortized over a very small number of launches.
 
There's a reason why heavy lift systems keep being studied and abandoned.

using Bugzilla is a good start (1)

Earthpaladin (1410291) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809001)

Personally, I think use of Bugzilla is a good start. I think it would be great to see more "open source" applications being used. Another thing is I think the next generation rocket technology was good. The shuttle when it came out was really new technology. If it had been mass produced it would have saved us a ton on money.

Re:using Bugzilla is a good start (1)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 5 years ago | (#25809379)

I've just fallen off my chair for a number of reasons

Firstly about the ideal of using Bugzilla for one of the most safety critical programmes in the world.

Secondly at the idea that this will make a dent in the cost (hint: the cost of change in this environment is in the process not the IT support technology)

Thirdly at idea of a mass produced shuttle saving a ton of money, that is like saying "if only they made 2 million Corvettes a day then the US auto industry wouldn't be in trouble".

Finally at the general idiot savant arrogance of looking at one of the most complex engineering achievements of all time and trying to fix it the same way you'd fix a web site that went over budget.

So many complain about the cost of space research. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25809301)

Which does cost billions. And many good projects get canceled. But also does produce much good.

But lets just question it instead of other more important wastes of money.

Aside from all the experience we learned about maintaining a structure in space for 10 years (something we need to know how to do to get to Mars), we also got lots of viable information regarding the affects on us in space. And then there are the experiments conducted.

What should we sensationalize into the dirt next? Hmmm, the news already shows about a 400%+ increase in violent crimes (over the last 20ish years) even though in reality violent crimes are down. Guess we all need ADT to protect from our well founded fears. Best not question that waste of news/social disruption. Especially since it can be used to cause so much fear in other reports (terrorists? bogeymen etc) .... and fear is sold to taxpayers without looking like a tax. Better than reporting the important stuff.

Maybe war? More is spent on war than on space. Much more. But questioning war leads to the linkage of questioning our soldiers. So lets not regard that cost.

But I digress inanely :(

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