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NASA Plans To De-Orbit ISS In 2016

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the everybody-duck dept.

554

NewbieV writes "The international space station is by far the largest spacecraft ever built by earthlings. Circling the Earth every 90 minutes, it often passes over North America and is visible from the ground when night has fallen but the station, up high, is still bathed in sunlight. After more than a decade of construction, it is nearing completion and finally has a full crew of six astronauts. The last components should be installed by the end of next year. And then? 'In the first quarter of 2016, we'll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft,' says NASA's space station program manager, Michael T. Suffredini."

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It'll never happen (5, Insightful)

7of7 (956694) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675649)

NASA is terrible with arbitrary deadlines. Remember how the Mars rovers were only supposed to work for 90 days? They've been at it for years now. The date will be pushed back over and over again.

Re:It'll never happen (5, Insightful)

haifastudent (1267488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676005)

NASA is terrible with arbitrary deadlines.

I agree, but for a different reason. This is a way to get the public involved (read: outraged) and secure funding. I hope it works.

Re:It'll never happen (4, Interesting)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676181)

NASA is terrible with arbitrary deadlines. Remember how the Mars rovers were only supposed to work for 90 days? They've been at it for years now. The date will be pushed back over and over again.

I hope you're right, but de-orbiting the ISS is a somewhat different matter than a Mars rover breaking down. You can't predict when a breakdown occurs, and as long as it doesn't, it's cheap to keep using it.

De-orbiting the ISS is an active choice, however. It's expensive to keep manned and operational. I suppose they could simply abandon it and leave it up there, but it's going to come down eventually. If I understand correctly, its orbit is so low that it experiences drag from Earth's atmosphere, which means it regularly needs a boost, and therefore fuel. I guess they prefer to have it come down in a controlled manner, so nobody gets hit on the head with the thing.

(I may have started by expressing the hope that the ISS stays up there for a while, but I'm not at all sure that's a good idea. Critics say it's a waste of money with no scientific value whatsoever. So why did we put it up there in the first place? Shouldn't we be figuring out how to mine asteroids instead?)

What a waste (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28675651)

I know space flight is tough, but shouldn't a super-expensive space station last longer than it took to build?

I mean this thing just got a full crew about a month ago.

I guess 7 years of full crew isn't horrible.

I wonder what it's like to have sex in space. I hear it's already happened a couple times..

I can't wait for my girlfriend (and her pussy) to get back from vacation.

Re:What a waste (3, Funny)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675713)

what, your laptop getting warranty repair work again?

Re:What a waste (0)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675971)

Yeah, thank God for that accidental damage protection. Those keyboard spills are ruinous!

Re:What a waste (4, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676071)

I can't wait for my girlfriend (and her pussy) to get back from vacation

As opposed to your girlfriend leaving her pussy on vacation? I think I saw something about that in the National Enquirer once.....

I didnt sign up for this (4, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676101)

How much did this cost? $100 billion dollars? I expect it to be up there till at least 2050, even if it is the ratty garage of a much larger space station by then. Of course Mir was up for what 15 years beyond its expected lifespan? $100 billion dollars is a lot of money just to burn it up in less than 20 years, even if you count the annual upkeep costs. That's like taking 6 months of the Iraq war funding and just burning it.

Re:I didnt sign up for this (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28676143)

That's like taking 6 months of the Iraq war funding and just burning it.

Exactly, thats why we had more than 6 years worth of the Iraq war just to make sure we could take in the smell of napalm and burnt currency.

Re:I didnt sign up for this (2, Interesting)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676249)

$100 billion dollars is a lot of money just to burn it up in less than 20 years,

We could have put people on Mars for that money.

Of course then you burn that money in an even short amount of time, but then at least we'd have put people on Mars. The amount of money you spend is irrelevant if you don't take into account what you get back for it.

Re:What a waste (2, Funny)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676259)

Why, she will probably need to rest it for a while anyway.

Re:What a waste (1)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676481)

Nobody seems to get it. They only did it for the lulz of blowing it up.

Unfortunately, it will never happen. (0, Troll)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675661)

It will stay there for a decade or two longer because those sucking the tit will find a way to keep the milk coming.

Re:Unfortunately, it will never happen. (4, Insightful)

KronosReaver (932860) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675805)

Will find a way?

This is the way.

Step 1 - Announce over and over that your going to "De-Orbit".

Step 2 - Wait for public outcry.

Step 3 - Cash ISS Stimulus check before the government runs out of paper to print money on.

Re:Unfortunately, it will never happen. (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676035)

There's a small flaw in your plan - the ISS is not the Hubble Space Telescope.

I think this is closer to the truth:
1. Announce that you are launching a shuttle to install a porch on the ISS.
2. Wait for the public outcry.
3. Skip installing the jacuzzi and gazebo, and announce you will de-orbit the ISS in 2016.

Re:Unfortunately, it will never happen. (4, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675965)

The question becomes - without the ISS as a destination, what does the CEV do between the deorbit of the ISS and any planned moon or mars mission in the early 2020s? Does NASA just launch this new expensive vehicle to orbit with no destination? What capacity does the CEV have for independent science while in orbit?

Re:Unfortunately, it will never happen. (2, Funny)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676329)

Well hopefully, there will be no moon or mars missions in the forseeable future. These would be probably just as useless as the ISS, and more expensive and dangerous.

Manned spaceflight should end until earth to orbit costs $100/lb or less.

However space probes and experiments should continue to be sent up. In fact if the entire budget that is being used for manned spaceflight were redirected to unmanned space exploration and science it would be good.

So what does that make the IRR? (1, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675663)

How much was invested in this thing, I wonder?

I am aware of the "sunk cost fallacy", and maybe the ISS has taught us everything it set out to teach... but I could've sworn that we were originally sold a much larger bill of goods than NASA now intends to deliver. Remember all the talk about a permanent space station from which to stage lunar and martian missions?

Re:So what does that make the IRR? (5, Funny)

KronosReaver (932860) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675871)

How much was invested in this thing, I wonder?

If only there were a way we could find out...

Oh wait... I know...

Maybe check the single link to the very short article where it mentions twice an "estimated" 100 Billion (US$) combined from all involved countries.

I'm guessing their bluffing (4, Insightful)

nobodyman (90587) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675961)

After reading the article, it sounds more like this is a game of chicken that NASA intends to play in order to secure more funding, either from congress or elsewhere.

Re:I'm guessing their bluffing (3, Interesting)

iceborer (684929) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676345)

it sounds more like this is a game of chicken that NASA intends to play in order to secure more funding, either from congress or elsewhere.

It's called the "Washington Monument ploy" (briefly described here [wikipedia.org] ). Agencies do it all the time. It takes its name from the Park Service saying that they'll have to close down sites like the Washington Monument to make the necessary spending cuts when their budget is reduced.

Re:So what does that make the IRR? (2, Interesting)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676089)

Remember all the talk about a permanent space station from which to stage lunar and martian missions?

Would have been great, and the shuttle was originally designed with that in mind, but the ISS can't do it. You need a station in orbit around the equator for that, but the ISS was put at a big inclination in order to make it easier for the Russians to get to it.

On the one hand, I'm sad to see a major space project come and go like this. On the other hand, I'm not sure what the ISS can accomplish compared to spending that money on another major space project.

Re:So what does that make the IRR? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28676397)

Would have been great, and the shuttle was originally designed with that in mind, but the ISS can't do it. You need a station in orbit around the equator for that, but the ISS was put at a big inclination in order to make it easier for the Russians to get to it.

And that was the other of the two reasons the ISS was built.

1) In the early 80s, "To give the Shuttle somewhere to go and something to do, so that Shuttle dollars keep getting allocated even though it's easier/cheaper to launch satellites on expendabe vehicles."
2) In the early 90s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, "To give unemployed Russian rocket scientists something else to build besides ballistic missiles for sale to the highest bidder."

Science (or staging/assembly points for future missions) were only the goal of the scientists. But scientists don't make the decisions on what gets funded, politicians do. And politicians don't know (and don't care) about science.

As someone else suggested above - if the Iraq War had been over within 6 months instead of 6 years, none of the contractors would have made any real money off it. There's no money to be made in winning wars, but plenty to be had in prolonging them.

Likewise, when you build a space station, the money doesn't get spent in space, it gets spent on Earth. From the point of view of a Congressman, a working space station's useless. There's no more money to be made from having it in orbit. So you build it - decades late and hundreds of billions overbudget - and then within an eyeblink of having completed the project, you deorbit it and build something new.

So you build it, put it in an orbit that's useless for staging or assembling future missions, and you trash it within an eyeblink of having finished the job.

luckily for us (3, Insightful)

markringen (1501853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675665)

luckily for us Nasa doesn't decide anything!

Re:luckily for us (1)

KronosReaver (932860) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675983)

Except which projects they will continue to support or not every time their budget is cut.

Russia already said a couple of months ago they would detach their module(s) and keep them in orbit, but if NASA decides to "De-Orbit" everything they have control over there isn't much anyone else can do about it.

And even if NASA just left it up there, who really wants to try and support old warn out tech designed by someone else?

Re:luckily for us (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676383)

And even if NASA just left it up there, who really wants to try and support old warn out tech designed by someone else?

The Russians apparently...

I hear they are going to install black jack tables and send up hookers... I'd love to get in on that action as it really sounds like a capitalist dream come true but alas I live in America...

Guess the Permanent Interplanetary Internet Node.. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28675667)

Isn't really permanent, eh?

Only 6 years after completion?! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28675689)

Christ, what a rathole for money that thing is.

You shouldn't even be reading this post for another ten minutes or so, because I should be writing it on Mars. Instead, yay, let's pay a bunch of underemployed Russian rocket scientists to build another Skylab/Mir, and see what happens when we blow bubbles in LEO.

Coming as it does near the anniversary of the first Apollo landing, this is a really depressing story. Idiocracy, indeed.

Re:Only 6 years after completion?! (2, Insightful)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676135)

Coming as it does near the anniversary of the first Apollo landing, this is a really depressing story. Idiocracy, indeed.

I assure you, that's not a coincidence; that's genius marketing. And I don't see what it has to do with Idiocracy.

WTF? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28675707)

I don't get it...

1. Build ISS
2. Deorbit...
.
.
.
X. Profit?!?!

Re:WTF? (2, Insightful)

uofitorn (804157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676191)

The ISS remains an enormous cash sink to maintain with relatively little scientific value compared to other endeavors. If you want something to complain about, look towards the people who made the decision to build it to begin with. At this point, I think it's about cutting losses.

I can't find the article in question at the moment, but the Economist ran an article a few months ago reporting that something along the lines of 50% of NASA's budget is devoted to the ISS alone.

What gives them the right (5, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675711)

... to say when or if it should be destroyed.

The first word in it's title is "International" and a lot of countries have put a lot of money into building it. Maybe they would like to start getting some returns on their payments now that it's finally almost finished, rather than having one single country decide that just because they're bored with it the whole thing should be crashed into the sea.

Re:What gives them the right (4, Informative)

SkankinMonkey (528381) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675745)

I believe NASA was given control of its decommissioning when the countries established the ISS charter.

Re:What gives them the right (4, Insightful)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675895)

I know NASA (and inherently the USA) has put more money than all the other nations involved (possibly combined) into the ISS.

Nonetheless, I think this is an example of a political maneuver to get those in charge of the money to wake up and realize that NASA has two huge projects on it's hands that need funding. Between ISS and Constellation, the NASA budget needs a bump or both of these will end up in the doldrums because of underfunding.

Remember at the end of Apollo when missions 18, 19, and 20 transitioned to Project Skylab? I think resolving what to do with ISS will be a matter of figuring out a new function for it to serve in the 20's and 30's. Hell... I'd like to see them tether it to a geosynchronous orbit and convert the thing into a space elevator to reduce the cost of energy needed to send 1 kg of material into space to less than $10k.

Re:What gives them the right (4, Insightful)

Karrde45 (772180) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676043)

The ISS would be absolutely worthless as a tether for a space elevator, not enough mass to be useful. Not to mention the fact that the anchor for a theoretical space elevator would have to be well past Geosynchronous orbit. The CG of the elevator needs to be at GEO, not the end of it.

Re:What gives them the right (3, Informative)

SkankinMonkey (528381) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676255)

The Russians already have plans to detach part of the ISS and use it for part of their next station, so it's not a total loss when decommissioned.

Re:What gives them the right (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676051)

Well, someone has to pay for the orbital boosts it needs on a regular basis or it will de-orbit all on its own, and NASA is probably the most on the hook if it crashes into something, so if NASA doesn't feel like paying and no one else steps up...

Why not preserve it? (4, Interesting)

bbasgen (165297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675723)

I don't fully understand why useful objects in space are discarded into the atmosphere. Isn't it feasible to send them into space, either in an extremely high orbit or just give it enough inertia to keep traveling in open space? Is it really not worth the time/fuel/effort? It seems odd that we can't keep a consistent, physical presence in space.

Re:Why not preserve it? (5, Informative)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675779)

Because it's less hazardous for future space missions to clear them out of orbit while we still can, rather than having to track new orbiting material.

Re:Why not preserve it? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676107)

I think by "send them into space" he meant "send them out of orbit"

Re:Why not preserve it? (2, Informative)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676371)

That takes way too much energy. It'd be a very big mission in itself, and it's not something that ISS is designed to do. A higher orbit might be an option, but still costs a lot of energy. De-orbiting is cheap.

Re:Why not preserve it? (2, Insightful)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676149)

It takes a huge, huge, huge amount of energy to boost a kilogram in LEO out of the Earth's gravity well compared to how much energy it takes to deorbit that same kilogram.

Re:Why not preserve it? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676153)

If you boost it into a higher orbit, you need a bigger rocket to get there, making the station less useful. Boosting something the size of ISS completely out of a low orbit would take a huge amount of fuel.

Re:Why not preserve it? (2, Insightful)

jafiwam (310805) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676319)

Escape velocity is approximately twice orbital velocity. * So, the ISS would need to have the booster equivalent of all the stuff they have up there COMBINED times two to get into Solar orbit as opposed to Earth orbit.

Even then, you aren't getting too far out of Earth orbit and run the risk of dropping the thing back from an unpredictable orbit some time over the next centuries.

So, no, it's not economical in any way shape or form to escape them, and it could be dangerous.

Deorbiting into the Pacific (which is usually where they target) is much safer and easier and can be done with a fraction of the fuel (they probably have enough on board).

*Extremely rough terms

Re:Why not preserve it? (1)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676381)

"Isn't it feasible to send them into space?"

No. Remember the moon mission? Remember the rocket we strapped to the lander to get it into lunar orbit? Yea, we'd need a bigger one to push the lander actually out of earth orbit. And of course the ISS is larger then the lunar lander. To burn it up in the atmosphere, though... well it needs periodic boosts to *not* burn up in the atmosphere. We of course would like to pick when and where exactly it falls, so there will be a little push at the end, but nowhere what we'd need to get it out of earth orbit.

Besides, why *not* burn it in the atmosphere? Not like it's dangerous when we do it on purpose - satellites burn up entirely and something big like the ISS will end up in a few square miles of open ocean after a few days of warnings. And a space station in sun orbit instead of earth orbit... would be as useful as one lying burnt at the bottom of the pacific. I suppose one at a L4/5 could be useful, but only if we had plans/reasons to visit periodically. No, the most useful place for the ISS is just where it is.

Honestly, NASA probably just wants more money. Space travel is expensive, and we want them to hold the ISS in orbit, go to the moon, and keep launching satellites and whatnot. If they don't have enough money, one of them has to go, as this is a not-so-subtle reminder of.

W.T.F. (4, Interesting)

chebucto (992517) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675743)

From wikipedia:

On-orbit construction of the station began in 1998 and is scheduled to be complete by 2011, with operations continuing until at least 2015. In the first quarter of 2016 unless there is a change in policy ... the space station will be de-orbited.

So, 13 years of construction and four years of (full-capacity) operation. This sets the standard for white elephants. As far as I'm concerned, they should either de-orbit it now and stop throwing good money after bad, or keep it up there for a lot longer, if only to do experiments on long-term living in space.

Re:W.T.F. (4, Insightful)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675875)

Of course, you're discounting the fact that they've been able to do experiments and science up there in it for over a decade already. It's not as if those last four years will be more valuable than all of the previous years combined. I'd imagine that a significantly greater quantity of research of greater importance would have been carried out in those first thirteen years, as compared to the last four years, given the newness of the station and the length of time it was in use.

Re:W.T.F. (4, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676055)

Not to mention the fact that the ISS is not so much a station, but a learning experiment on how to construct and run a space station. Think of all the subtle things, like the problems they had with toilets and so on...

Re:W.T.F. (4, Informative)

haifastudent (1267488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676151)

Of course, you're discounting the fact that they've been able to do experiments and science up there in it for over a decade already. It's not as if those last four years will be more valuable than all of the previous years combined. I'd imagine that a significantly greater quantity of research of greater importance would have been carried out in those first thirteen years, as compared to the last four years, given the newness of the station and the length of time it was in use.

Wrong, almost no manned science has been happening on the ISS so far, only automated experiments (and no manufacturing). This is because the ship needs a three-person crew to run it. Only now, with six astronauts, is there crew available for science.

Re:W.T.F. (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676209)

Did they find out if ants can be trained to sort tiny screws in a zero gravity environment?

Re:W.T.F. (2, Insightful)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676331)

"It's not as if those last four years will be more valuable than all of the previous years combined."

Full sized crew.
Focus on using hte station rather than it's construction.

Why shouldn't the last years be the most valuable ones?

Re:W.T.F. (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676375)

Hardly new. The Apollo missions took years to build, and had a total mission length of about two weeks. Military aircraft have a design life of 5000 or so hours, compares to the 70,000 or so of civil aircraft. Just because it is expensive doesn't mean it needs to be long life.

I sure hope so.... (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675755)

Of course, they have to bring it down , so they can get a new budget, or keep the old one, and then resend the new ISS up to space, instead of reusing/recycling parts, have a full forge up there, so you can melt down steel to then reshape it, etc...

There has to be many ways of doing certain things, even if we leave it up there and start building a second newer version, then the newer version with its smelt, can add to itself by taking apart the old one, and so on, and so on...sort of like the replicators from Stargate SG!..., no?

It would be cheaper, and alos less dangerous, for people down here....waiting for that ship to drop!

Re:I sure hope so.... (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676373)

in-orbit smelting seems a bit far fetched, at least for the next few decades but why not build a new station off of the old one? just keep adding modules, eventually start deorbiting old modules. Why build a whole new station every X years?

Next stop... (4, Interesting)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675761)

...space port? Imagine it, we build a space port in geosynchronous orbit. It would decrease the necessity to have massive quantities of fuel expended for vehicles to reach orbital velocity since you'd already be at speed at launch time. They could plan for modularized spacecraft, and then simply deliver them to the port for construction and deployment. If a space elevator were ever to be built, it could serve as the end linkage. There are a ton of possibilities, and I think its ultimately where we're headed. So why not swing for the stars (no pun intended)?

Re:Next stop... (1)

cpotoso (606303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676041)

...space port? Imagine it, we build a space port in geosynchronous orbit. It would decrease the necessity to have massive quantities of fuel expended for vehicles to reach orbital velocity since you'd already be at speed at launch time. They could plan for modularized spacecraft, and then simply deliver them to the port for construction and deployment. If a space elevator were ever to be built, it could serve as the end linkage. There are a ton of possibilities, and I think its ultimately where we're headed. So why not swing for the stars (no pun intended)?

Right, because it will not cost anything to bring things to gs orbit... You still need to get the astronauts, fuel, food, water, gear, etc to there before you assemble and launch. I do not see the savings.

Re:Next stop... (3, Insightful)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676279)

We could begin creating specialized vehicles. Right now we have to build vessels with many purposes in mind. They have numerous stages to get the vehicles into orbit. Then the vehicles must have parts for landing, scientific observation, satellite dropping, repair facilities, etc. By having a space port, we could build dedicated craft to deliver equipment to said port - think space barges. Likewise, the vehicles launched from orbit could have specialized purposes. It would bring an end to the current idea that vessels have to be 'jacks of all trades.' Further the stage rockets would no longer be needed for individual craft to reach orbit since they are already there. To put it mathematically... suppose you launch 4 vehicles from earth, and each costs 1 million to launch (completely theoretical numbers). However, you build a barge type vehicle which needs its own stage rockets, costing 2.5 million to launch. It is capable of delivering the modular parts to create the 4 space craft to the port. Since those craft no longer need to be launched from earth, they no longer need the stage rockets to get there (the largest parts of our current space craft). This leads to an overall savings of 1.5 million on the launches alone. I'm pulling these numbers out of my arse, but I hope you are picking up on my train of thought.

Re:Next stop... (4, Interesting)

ctetc007 (875050) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676057)

Actually, the fuel spent would be the same (if not more) because it had to be spent to get the spacecraft components and fuel up to that altitude. The same spacecraft mass is still going to the same place, so the same amount of energy is being expended. It could actually be more because these components are being brought up in other launch vehicles, thus fuel is being spent on the carrier craft as well.

What this does help with, though, is reliability and redundancy. Instead of throwing all your eggs in one launch vehicle basket, you're going up to GEO in bits in and pieces, so if one of the launches fails, you don't loose the whole thing. This same idea is the main concept for the F6 fractionated spacecraft [wikipedia.org] program.

Re:Next stop... (1)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676173)

Why would you want to put a space port in geosynchronous orbit? It's harder to get there than to LEO, and I don't see any benefit of locating a space port over a stationary point on the Earth's surface, which is the only advantage of GEO. ("Future endpoint of a space elevator" doesn't sound like a very practical justification to me.)

(And a space port would decrease the necessity to expend fuel to reach orbital velocity? As others have pointed out, whatever you launch from the port, or its raw materials, needs to get to the space port somehow, so you're not saving fuel that way. You might save fuel if you build everything on the Moon and ship it from there instead of from Earth, but that presumes a moon base or factory too.)

Re:Next stop... (1)

imroy (755) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676433)

Imagine it, we build a space port in geosynchronous orbit. It would decrease the necessity to have massive quantities of fuel expended for vehicles to reach orbital velocity since you'd already be at speed at launch time.

Um, geosynchronous orbit (GEO) is a long way out - 36 000 km. It's a very high orbit compared to most other things we put into orbit. When a GEO satellite is launched, the rocket only launches it into a "geosynchronous transfer orbit" (GTO); a large booster then gives it enough delta-V to get up into GEO. Your idea would certainly not decrease the need for fuel.

Re:Next stop... (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676523)

I am not a rocket scientist, and was mostly just throwing an idea out there as a pondering point :) As for decreasing the need for fuel, read my other followup post. By creating specialized delivery vehicles which could contain the parts for numerous other vehicles, you could yield a substantial savings. Further it would allow us to begin stockpiling parts in orbit, decreasing need for further launches to deploy parts.

Re:Next stop... (1)

Eric52902 (1080393) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676437)

No pun intended? Really? Its like saying, "with all due respect". You can say it, but I see right through your little farce!

Wait, before you do! (5, Funny)

SickFreak (578067) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675827)

Build another one, then de-orbit both of them. Why build and destroy one when you can do two for twice the price?

Re:Wait, before you do! (3, Informative)

tburke261 (981079) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675967)

The first rule of goverment spending: "Why build one when you can build two for twice the price?". It's a great quote out of "Contact"

Re:Wait, before you do! (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676395)

hey!! Maybe there's a second ISS already up there???

Sounds like a negotiation (2, Insightful)

MpVpRb (1423381) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675835)

Sounds to me like the first move in a series of negotiations.

"Give us more money, or we drop it in the ocean".

This is not the last article on the subject that we will see...

Re:Sounds like a negotiation (4, Informative)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676091)

Sounds to me like the first move in a series of negotiations.

"Give us more money, or we drop it in the ocean".

This is not the last article on the subject that we will see...

It's not exactly the first move, since this has been the publicly available schedule since before construction on the ISS even began.

At least make it an outhouse (1)

VoyagerRadio (669156) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675927)

Fer cryin' out loud, at least make it an outhouse. A perfect one, too, if they make it bottomless...that's maintenance free!

First we need to... (1)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675943)

Deorbit Washington

Re:First we need to... (1)

haifastudent (1267488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676263)

You do realize that this was the plan since the beginning: 13 years of construction and five of operation. Since it's construction began in 1998, the bodies in charge have had the goal of completing the station in 2011 and decommissioning it in 2016. This is nothing new to NASA or anyone else involved.

Re:First we need to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28676501)

it's means it is. I'm constantly amazed by the seemingly intelligent people that don't grasp this elementary fact.

Re:First we need to... (1)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676415)

But what if it doesn't entirely burn up? That could create a second Detroit!

Lock the doors and repel all boarders (3, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675945)

and declare independence.

With the russians being the only people (once the scuttle is sent to the knacker's yard) who have the ability to send people to the ISS, and the europeans with their independent supply craft, it may even be possible to ignore whatever NASA wants to do. Come 2016, it may even be that there were no more americans on the station - in which case all the existing occupants would have to do would be to stop any more of them arriving. Once the high costs of construction have been met and the station enters a lower cost maintenance phase of it's life, there could well be deals to be done with other countries to keep the station supplied and crews rotated and some real work done.

Last of all, I would really laugh if the de-orbiting project threw up some show-stoppers which showed that the station was now TOO BIG to be safely taken apart, without affecting it's overall stability - and the risk of the whole thing crashing back in one large piece.

Not quite what the article implies (4, Interesting)

spinkham (56603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28675953)

Article implies they are planning on trashing it in 2016 unless they get more funding.. This is a political move, and the ISS will probably be kept in service longer then that.

Operation Meteor (3, Funny)

Allicorn (175921) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676013)

The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture will clearly have something to say about this!

Send it to orbit the moon or Mars (1, Interesting)

CHK6 (583097) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676019)

Couldn't they just package it up and send it to the moon or Mars? It could can like an emergency hunter's lodge in Alaska. A future mission to the moon again or Mars and you have a possible backup at the destination. Hopefully the other countries will see this idea is better than de-orbiting it. They just need to remember to leave the key in the mouse head after locking up. You never know when you need it and having it parked in orbit for that time you wished you had, might be wiser than destroying it. Also NASA and other countries could study moving large stations between moons or planets.

Re:Send it to orbit the moon or Mars (1)

dwights (109013) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676413)

I agree with chk6 - rather than try to bring it back to earth (i assume it they are not going to attempt to actually bring it back intact), can it not be sent to the moon? The lesser gravity to minimize impact and lack of atmosphere to avoid entry burnup, might allow it to land in somewhat of a useful state. Not that I want to see humanity start littering the moon, but I would think having -some- sort of spare parts on the moon would be more beneficial than just crashing it back to earth.

Re:Send it to orbit the moon or Mars (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676497)

No. It takes huge amounts of fuel to get out of the Earth's gravity well. That would certainly cost tens of billions, and possibly as much again as has already been spent. Left to itself, its orbit will decay and it will plummet unpredictably with a very few years. Boosted, expensively, to parking orbit, it will be a useless hunk embarrassingly visible, like a redneck's chocked up car in front of the house.

I call bullshit on this... (2, Interesting)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676023)

Honestly, after all the money we've spent, I don't see them just plopping it into the ocean.

Firstly, if we're going to the moon and mars, the ISS seems like a pretty damn good staging/bailout option.

Secondly, we need to start thinking long term about our survival as a species. One of those strategies means long term human space flight. Currently a space station is the only thing that's giving us that.

I'm sure there will be those people who argue that it takes money away from other projects, but right now it's the only thing NASA is doing.

Blame it on /. (3, Funny)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676027)

Now that they have this [slashdot.org] it's inevitable that productivity will begin to sink and before you know it there's nothing to do but
read /. and surf for porn... Might as well start planning for its decommissioning, the place will be useless in a year.

It will be tested heavily this month, and could give astronauts direct Internet access within a year.

Tested heavily. My point exactly.

Why does this sound like the Monty Python bit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28676061)

The one about building a castle in the swamp? How many more of these space station things do we have to build before they don't sink back into the swamp?

That was quick! (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676077)

Thus ending seven years of interplanetary porn [slashdot.org] ,...

3drealms of science? (1)

Kurusuki (1049294) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676081)

What is this? Spend a dozen years creating possibly the second most sophisticated piece of scientific equipment only to blow it up on a predefined time table? Why not make that date something to the tune of, "Upon becoming too cumbersome to maintain." Or, "Becomes scientifically unecessary." Why is it you have to state ahead of time that it will only last 5 or so years? It's not like you have to state how long something is going to last, we all know how well that went with the Mars rovers. >> Okay guys, we've worked 12 years on her and she's finally done. 'aint she a beauté? Okay boys, take her down.

Re:3drealms of science? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676359)

Why not make that date something to the tune of, "Upon becoming too cumbersome to maintain." Or, "Becomes scientifically unecessary."

So, go back in time to 2006 when the hab module was cancelled?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitation_Module [wikipedia.org]

Or back in time to 2007 when they canceled the research module?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Research_Module [wikipedia.org]

A very familiar refrain (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676169)

Translation, "give us more money or we'll drop this satellite on your heads." This is the unsubtle protest of a bureaucrat trying to use the media to get the public incensed.

You gotta be kidding me! (5, Insightful)

seeker_1us (1203072) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676177)

Bill Clinton killed the United States supercollider to fund this piece of shit. Twenty years later, we will have neither.

That's not waste in NASA world! (1)

blahbooboo (839709) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676187)

Nah, that isn't wasteful! Not in NASA world anyway! A world where they have been wasting tons of cash on an ancient launch mechanism that's been around waaay too long at 1 billion per launch -- I am looking at you Space Shuttle :)

Space politics (4, Interesting)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676189)

It's really difficult to do medium/long term space projects when there are changes to the budget every year, and new legislators looking to reevaluate after every election. If we're going to take on a project like this, we need the resolve (and financial commitment) to see it through.

How ridiculous is it that we have built the station, but we're not going to send up the already-built Centrifuge Accommodations Module [wikipedia.org] , arguably one of the most important planned science modules?

Keeping the IIS in operation is expensive, but throwing it away would be foolhardy if it still has value for scientific research or for supporting future missions.

Think outside the box (3, Funny)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676205)

If you're going to deorbit it, why waste it on the ocean? At least drop it on a country we don't like. Or on Kenny [southparkstudios.com] .

If true, NASA funding will be even harder to find (2, Interesting)

HikingStick (878216) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676315)

I can't believe that NASA would even float such a concept right now. As a kid, I was fed a constant stream of news that indicated we were planning a permanent space station that would orbit the earth. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. If they do scuttle it (something, imo, not likely to happen as early as 2016 given the international nature of the project), they'll simply be telling the world that they're great as throwing money into holes. Sure, we've recouped advances in science and technology from the time we've had there, but the US taxpayer won't think of it that way. NASA requests for funding will be met with more and more resistance. Money will dry up faster than a spilled gallon of water in the desert.

I guess I might hold out hope that one of the private space flight ventures might pony-up and put in a bid to buy the ISS. They could monetize it, by leasing compartments or general access to both space tourists and to scientific endeavors.

Outrageous (2, Interesting)

Eravnrekaree (467752) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676333)

This is outrageous, to spend billions on this thing and then deorbit it just a few years after it is complete is just pure insanity. Billions of dollars wasted. I wonder if there will be any useful scientific information to come out of ISS. More likely, it seems that ISS, manned moon and mars programs are nothing but ego trips that drain money away from more effective and productive projects such as Hubble. The idea of manned spaceflight to the moon or mars is ridiculous as most people will never be able to go into space, and you can do most things with cheaper unmanned craft than with these expensive manned systems. With technology which exists in the forseeable future, spaceflight will be little more than a gimmick or something that a few small number of people will do. Its just too expensive and costly.

I think a public space program is vital, and does things that a private company would not do. A private company would likely mainly shuttle extremely wealthy people into orbit, a few per year, and any scientific data they happen to produce would likely be sold at huge cost, instead of being available to all humanity. The public space program should be science oriented to expand knowledge and make data available to all for improvement of our knowledge of the universe.

It's Skylab all over again! (3, Insightful)

Painted (1343347) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676339)

Just as we get to the first flights of Orion, which will almost certainly slip past 1Q2016, we'll deorbit one of the primary reasons we're building Orion.

I always thought that the 5 year gap of no manned craft for the US sounded dumb, I guess they always had this at the back of their minds and just want to get rid of the thing. I'd get Ares V on tap, send up a big (ion?) booster, and either move it to a more equatorial orbit, so it can be used as an assembly point for lunar/martian missions, or let it go on autopilot through the Van Allen belts and push it into high earth orbit for future use. Hell at that point you could zip it out to a Lagrange point for storage.

Re:It's Skylab all over again! (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676405)

Just as we get to the first flights of Orion, which will almost certainly slip past 1Q2016, we'll deorbit one of the primary reasons we're building Orion.

Translated ... Orion will also get the boot.

Next Step (2, Interesting)

zbharucha (1331473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676417)

I wouldn't say that the ISS has been a whole and complete waste. Sure - it is years behind schedule, etc., etc. but one has to admit that it has taught us a lot in terms of international cooperation, waste management, construction in zero-G among a long list of others. I truly believe that the next step to maintaining a presence in space has to come in the way of building a lunar base. It will be challenging but will have huge advantages, not the least of which is a base which is permanent (won't have to be de-orbited after a number of years), a base capable of providing on-site labs to do all sorts of analysis on lunar soil, rocks, regolith and basically, a base which will extend our knowledge of our own natural satellite by many orders of magnitude. And who knows? Perhaps one day we'll be advanced enough to manufacture components from materials found on the moon and be using that very base to send heavy spacecraft to other heavenly bodies like Mars. Discuss.

Sell it on eBay (2, Interesting)

Alcoholist (160427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676419)

Maybe not on eBay, but the ISS is already up there, I'm pretty sure it was designed to last longer than 16 years, why not sell it to at least cover some of the costs? I personally don't think it would be a good investment, but people pay lots of money for the weirdest stuff.

I know! The Chinese. They've got money. If we sold it to them cheap, they would be ever so grateful. They might even keep letting us use it from time to time.

Botany bay it! (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676425)

Let's send convicted criminals to the ISS then send it to Mars. Maybe they can tell us about Mars and stuff.

"Permanent Inode" not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28676427)

Hmm, so we spend $$ putting up a station, a few more and put a DTN node there, and call it permanent, then deorbit the whole kit/kaboodle in what, 6 years?

http://tech.slashdot.org/story/09/07/13/0222214/ISS-Launches-First-Permanent-Node-of-Interplanetary-Internet

Deconstruction of "permanence" commencing....

Stop... (1, Troll)

anonieuweling (536832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676467)

Stop the wars in Iraq, Pipelinistan ehrm...Afghanistan, etc, pull the USAsians back and the ISS can stay afloat a nice number of extra years.

Give it a telescope and hi-res ground imaging (1)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676469)

A steady stream of pretty pictures seems to keep satellites aloft.

International (2, Informative)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28676493)

They've threatened this before... And Russia, Japan and the ESA have all said they will oppose any attempt to shut it down in 2016. If you want to throw away (i.e. kill) the international partnership we've created, shutting down the ISS in 2016 would be a good way to do it.
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