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Huge ISS Science Report Released

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the see-guys-we-don't-need-the-moon-really dept.

NASA 87

Earthquake Retrofit writes "NASA has released an extensive report (PDF) on science results from over 100 experiments performed at the International Space Station. From the summary: 'One of the most compelling results reported is the confirmation that the ability of common germs to cause disease increases during spaceflight, but that changing the growth environment of the bacteria can control this virulence. The Effect of Spaceflight on Microbial Gene Expression and Virulence experiment identified increased virulence of space-flown Salmonella typhimurium, a leading cause of food poisoning. New research on subsequent station missions will target development of a vaccine for this widespread malady." I can't tell if this is good news, bad, or both. Also from a quick look at the report, I see that soybeans grow bigger in space with no harmful effect."

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Growing food in space (4, Insightful)

FST777 (913657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626733)

Just wait for the "concerned" special interest groups to claim that it's unnatural and that selling the resulting product should be banned.

Re:Growing food in space (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29631199)

Jesus christ...

You can't escape politics no matter where you go. It's in science, it's in web standards, it's in government, it's everywhere!

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if that happened. Just like I wasn't surprised when a bunch of web browser companies refused to come up with a common codec for HTML5, most likely due to vested interests in keeping things proprietary.

Size means little if the nutritional value is low (4, Insightful)

Targon (17348) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626755)

When it comes down to it, if food products are larger but do not provide additional "food value" to go with the size, the only benefit would be for those trying to lose weight, since there is less food "value" for a given mass. 1000 calories of something grown in space may take up more room, but it is still only 1000 calories worth of food. Now, if you take a plant that on Earth provides 1000 calories and when grown in space it provides 1500 calories, THEN that would be worth looking at.

Re:Size means little if the nutritional value is l (4, Interesting)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627075)

When it comes down to it, if food products are larger but do not provide additional "food value" to go with the size, the only benefit would be for those trying to lose weight, since there is less food "value" for a given mass. 1000 calories of something grown in space may take up more room, but it is still only 1000 calories worth of food. Now, if you take a plant that on Earth provides 1000 calories and when grown in space it provides 1500 calories, THEN that would be worth looking at.

A reciprocal argument can be made about mass-farmed food on Earth. Generally the calorie content is higher in industrially farmed foods while the nutrient content is lower. Therefore it's a problem for those looking to lose weight because getting the required calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, etc. are diluted relative to the calories that come along with them. Furthermore, since grains (the source ofproblematic omega-6 fatty acids) replace leaves (the source of important omega-3 fatty acids) in industrial meat farming, some important nutrients [wikipedia.org] are very difficult to consume regardless of the amount of calories consumed. Supplemental nutrients are often added to make up for these deficiencies, but considering that nutritionists have only vague ideas of which nutrients matter, whether quantity or ratio matter, or whether seemingly unimportant chemicals are necessary to properly utilize the nutrients that we know are important, this doesn't have a reliable effect.

Re:Size means little if the nutritional value is l (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628409)

but considering that nutritionists have only vague ideas of which nutrients matter

To paraphrase Dara Ó Briain [wikipedia.org] :

If anyone describes themselves as a nutritionist, just be slightly weary, alright? What they're saying might be perfectly true, but nutritionist isn't a protected term. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Dietician is the legally protected term. A dietician is like dentist, and nutritionist is like "toothiologist".

Re:Size means little if the nutritional value is l (1)

bhiestand (157373) | more than 4 years ago | (#29633527)

but considering that nutritionists have only vague ideas of which nutrients matter

To paraphrase Dara Ó Briain [wikipedia.org] :

If anyone describes themselves as a nutritionist, just be slightly weary, alright? What they're saying might be perfectly true, but nutritionist isn't a protected term. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Dietician is the legally protected term. A dietician is like dentist, and nutritionist is like "toothiologist".

To add to that, I don't think dietician is all that telling, either. It's still a very immature science, and difficult to really call a science. Dieticians don't seem to have any actual, verifiable answers that aren't directly tied to the laws of thermodynamics.

Re:Size means little if the nutritional value is l (1)

Zey (592528) | more than 4 years ago | (#29640903)

Says MartinSchou:

If anyone describes themselves as a nutritionist, just be slightly weary, alright?

I'm a little tired of this argument.

Re:Size means little if the nutritional value is l (2, Interesting)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627133)

An easy way to taste this fact is to compare apples or strawberries of different sizes. (But presumably not comparing apples to strawberries.) Same total amount of sugar per fruit, usually, so the big ones are less sweet.

Re:Size means little if the nutritional value is l (1)

Velocir (851555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29631561)

Um, no. Size is a factor, but it's not the only factor by any means, nor even the main one. Sun exposure, proximity to the trunk/main stem, number of other fruit on the same plant, and water available also have major effects on the the amount of sugar in each individual fruit.

Re:Size means little if the nutritional value is l (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627299)

And don't even start about the vitamins & co that you actually need to not become sick from processing those 4186.8 Joule*.

__
* Welcome to the 20th (!) century! ;)

Re:Size means little if the nutritional value is l (1)

yiantsbro (550957) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627363)

I would think that if that is the case then it is worth looking at for that reason alone. The obesity problems we have and all of the associated issues that come along with it are huge. Letting someone continue eating the same volume of food with reduced calories would be beneficial.

Re:Size means little if the nutritional value is l (1)

Korey Kaczor (1345661) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628027)

If something has more mass and that extra mass is digestable, it would follow that there's more sustenance of some sort in there.

But the economical value of growing food in such an environment and importing it back to earth, to be redistributed to the hungry in poor countries, is laughably poor.

"Effect of Spaceflight"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29626771)

Woah, this title will look so dated when one day every ship has artificial gravity. They should write "Microgravity", not "Spaceflight", in order to stay timeless.

ISSv2? (2, Interesting)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626801)

I wonder if there is an "ISS v2" on the cards or if they will only keep expanding this one?

Re:ISSv2? (5, Informative)

FST777 (913657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626929)

The Russians are thinking about a 2.0: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_Piloted_Assembly_and_Experiment_Complex [wikipedia.org]

Re:ISSv2? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29634923)

The Russians have, in the last twenty years, produced hundreds of gigabytes of powerpoints detailing advanced and ambitious schemes in space. Precisely none of which have amounted to anything beyond consuming untold kilowatts of electricity to store and view.

Re:ISSv2? (1)

FST777 (913657) | more than 4 years ago | (#29637917)

That's a bit unfair...

After the fall of the USSR, the Russians had to rethink their future in space along with ginormous budget cuts. What they came up with was a program that centred around commercializing space. As the first and biggest provider of trips to space for tourist, it is no wonder that a new space station is on their minds for the time after the ISS has made its last burning trip. Besides that, OPSEK isn't that ambitious.

They seek to consolidate their position as a cheap and reliable launcher of commercial satellites in the same way, with the advent of the Angara rocket family.

This [wikipedia.org] section of Wikipedia is a interesting read for those who are interested in Roskosmos.

Re:ISSv2? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29639529)

That's a bit unfair...

Fair or not, it's the truth.
 
 

Besides that, OPSEK isn't that ambitious.

It's twice the size of what they've managed to build for ISS (half of which the US paid for). Of the balance of what they originally intended to build for ISS, half has been cancelled, the remainder repeatedly delayed. So yes, compared to what they have accomplished or claimed they would do, it's extremely ambitious.
 
 

They seek to consolidate their position as a cheap and reliable launcher of commercial satellites in the same way, with the advent of the Angara rocket family.

An ambitious and much delayed chunk of vaporware. With their record to date, don't hold your breath.
 
 

This section of Wikipedia is a interesting read for those who are interested in Roskosmos.

Interesting for exactly how much of that impressive list has been delayed or simply not accomplished.

Re:ISSv2? (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 4 years ago | (#29642381)

They seek to consolidate their position as a cheap and reliable launcher of commercial satellites in the same way, with the advent of the Angara rocket family.

An ambitious and much delayed chunk of vaporware. With their record to date, don't hold your breath.

Dnepr [wikipedia.org] has been highly successful, IMHO.

What could have been... (1)

GPS Pilot (3683) | more than 4 years ago | (#29647017)

The original Reagan-era vision for the space station was to spend $8 billion to build a design that included hangars in which large interplanetary spacecraft would be assembled. (Those facilities were eliminated in one of the several Congressionally-mandated "money-saving" redesigns.) Too bad we have to wait at least 40 years to see that vision realized.

Re:ISSv2? (1)

JDOHERTY (323140) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628205)

Well, seeing as the most exciting or at least slashdot worthy scientific result posted here was about microbes being possibly more virulent in space my guess is ISSv2 isn't exactly a high priority. See this month's Scientific American magazine. Couldn't the money be given to orphans or Google or someone instead?

Who says science is underfunded? (1, Insightful)

cybrpnk2 (579066) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626877)

At a price tag of $100 billion (at least) for the ISS, these experiments average over $1 billion each. Worth it? Nope.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (1)

amilo100 (1345883) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626999)

The ISS was never about science.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (2, Interesting)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627177)

As much as I respect him, I kind of blame Carl Sagan for the ISS. He argued that we should use a space station for international brotherhood, and it seems like that goal detracted from the goal of actually accomplishing something tangible.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628019)

International Brotherhood isn't tangible? I rather doubt it's possible, but if you could defuse the human instinct to stomp on each other constantly, you would do more to raise the standard of living amongst a significant fraction of the earth's population than pretty much anything else. What we really need are some insectiod aliens with space ships.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628769)

My mother was an insectoid alien, you insensitive clod!

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29631235)

Finally, someone realizes that aggression is a basic human instinct.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | more than 4 years ago | (#29630703)

I, on the other hand, have never had much respect for Carl Sagan. He mixed too much politics with his science promotions, and far too little engineering. In many ways, he was the liberal's equivalent of Rush Limbaugh.

So I find it sort of remarkable that I do agree with parent post in putting some of the blame for the ISS on Sagan's thin shoulders.

Caution: this post might be a troll. Danger! or maybe not...

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (1)

Stephan202 (1003355) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627037)

The ISS is not only about zero-gravity research. It is also about spaceflight. And politics.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (4, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627071)

As we all know, there is no spinoffs. Ever, all data is useless. How ignorant.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29630031)

There are only finite resources available to scientific investigations. Manned spaceflight seems to be a hugely expensive way to learn very uninteresting things about how bacteria and crystals grow in zero-g. It is easy to knock down the straw-man argument "Nothing whatsoever has or will come from the ISS". It is much harder to justify the gigantic scale of the cost against the results.

To put it in perspective, a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests the cost of the ISS would cover the cost of employing 25,000 full-time researchers for their whole career, maybe only 10,000 after the cost of their experiments, but still a massive number.

Are you really confident that a few people (who can't be specialists in everything) with a very busy timetable working in a very cramped, noisy tin can with dodgy atmospheric controls are achieving more than 10,000 scientists would achieve on the ground over 40 years? Many people are not.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29631363)

Zero-G is not easy to come by, so you might very well be comparing apples to oranges.

Whether Zero-G is valuable enough to justify the expense in obtaining it is a value judgement that naturally mandates that some opinion be utilized.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (1)

vuo (156163) | more than 4 years ago | (#29631183)

There should be some connection to real uses or real science. The space program, for instance, received its impetus from military use (GPS, communication and spy satellites, ballistic missiles, etc.). This science seems to be going nowhere. I work as a scientist, and it's a huge problem to get anything over 5000 funded. If only I could spend 0.69 billion to observe that plants grow bigger in absence of gravity. People should learn to think in terms of opportunity cost. $100 billion spent to unmanned missions could fund 143 Planck satellites, 91 Herschels, etc.

Re:Who says science is underfunded? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29627137)

Yeah! I mean, really, who uses vaccines? And there is plenty of food on earth for everyone forevermore why are they wasting there time with enhanced growing techniques? And I see they are working on a targeted cancer treatment. Hah! Cancer is so 90s. New solar cells? What?!!!1!1 I've seen the commercial, America has "LOTS of oil." These experiments are such a waste of time. Why don't they just find a spot of microgravity on earth and do the experiments there? Why do they have to go all the way up to space? I don't understand any of this, obviously, that means this is all worthless.

tbanks (0, Offtopic)

chelroms (1642993) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626913)

thanbks this is a great news... http://www.techandgizmo.com/ [techandgizmo.com]

Main point of ISS is showing we can inhabit space (2, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626965)

The main result of ISS is to demonstrate that the engineering is sound to built a habitat in space that can be permanently occupied for (so far) a period of ten years. This is straightforward, but nevertheless is a critically important step for the long-term expansion of humanity into the universe.

It's a necessary building block that has, now, been demonstrated. After that, everything else is of secondary importance (but I do think that demonstrating VASMIR [seedmagazine.com] will be cool.)

Re:Main point of ISS is showing we can inhabit spa (2, Insightful)

demachina (71715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627803)

"engineering is sound to built a habitat in space"

The Russians already proved that for a LOT less money with Mir.

If the pinnacle of achievement of the ISS is a study on bacteria in zero G we pretty much squandered $150 billion dollars on nothing. Though hey... we squander that much in Iraq in a couple months so many its all relative. Still NASA should have been put that money to a lot better use building launch capability that doesn't suck, more robotic, science and observatories or getting to Mars. Instead they pretty much did a high tech jobs program for a couple decades

Re:Main point of ISS is showing we can inhabit spa (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627825)

... or the U.S. could have spent 10 billion and finished the super conducting supercollider and not squandered its leadership position in nuclear physics to the EU.

Re:Main point of ISS is showing we can inhabit spa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29630139)

I believe parent was speaking of high energy particle physics rather than nuclear physics.

Re:Main point of ISS is showing we can inhabit spa (1, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627985)

The Russians already proved that for a LOT less money with Mir.

BZZZT. Wrong. Or at least, not yet correct. The Russians started out and created a lot of groundwork (ignore the pun). We still are not at the stage at which fixing things in orbit is 'routine'. Every EVA, every repair, takes months of planning and practice. We need to do much better before we get our asses out of LEO. And the only way to do it is practice, practice, practice. Which means the ISS or something like it.

Re:Main point of ISS is showing we can inhabit spa (2, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628489)

"engineering is sound to built a habitat in space"

The Russians already proved that for a LOT less money with Mir.

If a baby learns to take one step, do you think there's no point in its taking a two steps; it can just go right on from there to climb Mount Everest?

Mir was a step. 350 m2, 120 tons.

Re:Main point of ISS is showing we can inhabit spa (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29653615)

Don't think tonnage is a particularly good way to judge the effectiveness of how you spent hundreds of billions of dollars. Since the Russians built the core of ISS using Mir as the proof of concept its not like ISS was breaking much ground in a lot of areas. I'll credit NASA with their efforts on gyros for attitude control, for the massive power systems and the Canadians for their work on robotics, but those were all incremental acheivements, nothing groundbreaking. All in all ISS is just a colossal failure as a program. Worse than the squandered billions is the squandered decades NASA has been marching in place, going no where.

About 30 years ago someone should have noticed that there wasn't actually anything about the ISS that had a point or was actually worth the time or money. Instead, for some unfathomable reason NASA chose to justify the Shuttle as a mean to service the ISS and they justified the ISS as a place for the Shuttle to go and forgot to notice there was no actual point to either.

Re: point of ISS is showing we can inhabit space (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29659759)

Mir was a step. ISS is another step. You know what? If we're actually going to expand civilization into space, we're going to need a lot of steps.

Or we can chose not to. It's our choice.

Re: point of ISS is showing we can inhabit space (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671047)

Taking one step forward and then one step back isn't a way to get any place either.

Re: point of ISS is showing we can inhabit space (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29671243)

Exactly.

Re:Main point of ISS is showing we can inhabit spa (2, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628323)

Absolutely. The most important thing we've learned from the ISS is how to build a complex habitation in space and operate it autonomously. If you're going to Mars or anywhere else more than a few days from earth, even simple things like a toilet failing could have dire consequences (hygiene problems, running out of water without recycling, etc...) if you're halfway to Mars. If your oxygen generator has an unexpected and unplanned failure mode, it's much better to learn about that in orbit of earth than it is halfway to mars.

Not worth it... (2, Insightful)

SaberCat (1391411) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626977)

Once again, besides Velcro and Tang, what have we gotten from manned space flight?

Re:Not worth it... (1)

CoverStory (1020095) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627045)

Hubble.

Re:Not worth it... (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627129)

There is that. Besides Velcro, Tang, and the Hubble telescope what has manned space flight ever done for us?

Re:Not worth it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29627493)

Disposable diapers. I kid you not, look it up.
But truthfully there's a lot more, smoke detectors, cordless electric drills, shavers, and pens that write upside down.

Re:Not worth it... (1)

kaini (1435765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29629203)

pens that write upside down.

Or 'pencils', as the Russians like to call them.

Re:Not worth it... (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29629529)

All right, but apart from Velcro, Tang, the Hubble telescope, disposable diapers, smoke detectors, cordless electric drills, shavers, and pens that write upside down, what has manned space flight ever done for us?

Re:Not worth it... (1)

blue trane (110704) | more than 4 years ago | (#29630865)

better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order!

Re:Not worth it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29627187)

Yes, I agree that Hubble is worth it. The science from it is fantastic. But it is "unmanned" and it probably could have been designed to be serviced by robots -- i.e., with modular,replaceable components. Maybe not at the time it was designed, but now we are able to explore Mars with robots...

Re:Not worth it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29627351)

There are other things we've gotten, some of them only promising the possibility of any sort of payoff over the long term. Admittedly, the ratio of payback compared to expense isn't all that great when you look at the raw science dealing with humans in space or immediately practical technology we get out of it. However, much of it is either very, very useful or opens up new possibilities and can therefore be considered worth the price.

But not everything needs to meet bottom-line thinking.

There's also the sense of awed wonder felt when you look up at the Moon and think, "We've been there." The feeling of promise and hope you feel when looking at the latest Mars Rover image and thinking, "Someday, if we do it right, we'll be there." There's also looking over the shoulders of someone seeing the bright marble of Earth hung in space and the dreams of where humanity might travel in the future. Those might not be as practical as the former things mentioned, but they're just as worthwhile.

Re:Not worth it... (3, Informative)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627633)

Saving lives and reducing injuries: energy absorbing car bumpers derived from needing the lunar lander to touch down (go from fast to stopped) while keeping the occupants alive. Now you know where that honeycomb design came from.

However, Tang was formulated by William A. Mitchell for General Foods Corporation in 1957 and first marketed in 1959. (Sales were poor until they advertised NASA's use of it in 1965.)

Velcro similarly, was invented in 1941 by Swiss engineer, George de Mestral, who got the idea from burrs on his hunting dog. He put some under a microscope and saw, wait for it...hooks! The name is a portmanteau of the two French words velours and crochet, or 'hook'.

Re:Not worth it... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29635001)

Saving lives and reducing injuries: energy absorbing car bumpers derived from needing the lunar lander to touch down (go from fast to stopped) while keeping the occupants alive. Now you know where that honeycomb design came from.

I shouldn't have to point out that crushable energy absorption was a proven technology long before the LEM was designed - to the point that the honeycomb material used in the LEM landing gear came from a company in North Carolina whose sole business was manufacturing honeycomb material for industrial use.
 
As with Velcro and Tang - NASA has been associated, via the tireless work of it's PAO, with all manner of innovations and advancements that they aren't actually responsible for.

Re:Not worth it... (1)

SaberCat (1391411) | more than 4 years ago | (#29643699)

Humm... seems like those inventions could have been designed without the expense of going to the moon. Nice info on Tang and Velcro though... I just used them to make a point. Thanks...

Re:Not worth it... (1)

Covalent (1001277) | more than 4 years ago | (#29642981)

Once again, besides Velcro and Tang, what have we gotten from manned space flight?

Increased knowledge of how to evacuate Earth in case of catastrophe?

Re:Not worth it... (1)

SaberCat (1391411) | more than 4 years ago | (#29643653)

I assume you are kidding... ...funds would be better spent on saving Earth. The manned space station is a project without a purpose. So far as I know it has yielded no substantial science. NASA is offering free time on it in a desperate attempt to find a use for the thing!

Re:Not worth it... (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29727255)

Dude, they *&%#@ing walked on the mother^@*$ing moon.

Is it a clear night in your timezone? Go look out your window at that big white thing in the sky. Some blokes went and *!#$ing walked on that.

What more benefits to we need than that?

That's All? (1)

Garrett Fox (970174) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627163)

It's nice that NASA has been able to do some science experiments in space. It's also nice that their robotic probes have gathered information about the planets and the rest of the universe.

Ultimately, though, I don't care about the raw science. This research does little to get us closer to actually bringing life to other planets. A few weeks back, NASA released a report saying that they can't keep running the ISS, the Shuttle, and their other experiments while also gearing up for a return to the Moon or a mission to Mars. If I could drop the ISS into the ocean next year and use the money for a Moon/Mars venture, I'd definitely do it.

Re:That's All? (2, Informative)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627767)

This research does little to get us closer to actually bringing life to other planets. A few weeks back, NASA released a report saying that they can't keep running the ISS, the Shuttle, and their other experiments while also gearing up for a return to the Moon or a mission to Mars.

More specifically, the Augustine commission said that a commitment to going to the moon or Mars would require actually budgeting money to do so-- exploration is not going to happen unless money is allocated to do it. And, in fact, despite great words about exploration, the trend has been for NASA's budget to be cut, not increased, with more and bigger cuts projected in the future. NASA's budget was five percent of the federal budget during the Apollo years. It's recently dropped to a little less than half a percent, and the trend is down, not up.

If I could drop the ISS into the ocean next year and use the money for a Moon/Mars venture, I'd definitely do it.

That's flawed thinking in many ways. First, of course, is that the Space Station is bringing us closer to habitation of space. It may seem dull and routine, but in fact you do need to demonstrate the engineering, and demonstrate it in the real space environment, before you're going to put long-duration habitats on the moon, or Mars, or move on into the asteroid belts. It is a necessary precursor. Think of it as the engineering testbed.

And if we can't even keep up the willpower to stick to a relatively simple mission-- testing out our technologies on a space station in low Earth orbit-- what in the world would make anybody believe that we'd have the resolution to accomplish a really long-term exploration project? Even in the vastly unlikely case that the money saved from the Space Station would then be used for the Moon and Mars, why do you think that that project wouldn't then be cancelled in a few years?

Makes sense to me. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29627253)

In zero gravity every microbe is a potential airborne contagion.

Think about it. A germ that usually causes symptoms like the common cold could be far more lethal when infecting the lungs instead of being limited by gravity to contact based exposure.

But can ants sort tiny screws in space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29627291)

How-many-billions of dollars and NASA still can't provide an answer to this burning question. What are we paying these people for?

billions for the obvious (-1, Flamebait)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627501)

we have spent, order of magnitude, about a gazillion dollars to find out that...germs still work in space, but are a little different.
I will go out and buy a hat to eat if any professional biologists are at all surprised by this.
Typical of the socalled "science" of space: like fusion power, more a welfare program then science; I bet if we had taken all that money, printed one dollar bills and then burnt them, the knowledge about how to recycle paper would be more valuable then everything from the space station.
I wonder if there are enough people employed in these makework programs that it actually makes a difference in the national underemployment figures

"Soybeans grow bigger" (0, Troll)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627543)

"I see that soybeans grow bigger in space with no harmful effect."

Great... that's precisely what we need: mutant tofu to go with our irradiated mercury-soaked sushi.

Re:"Soybeans grow bigger" (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29652103)

Troll? Jeez, what a rough crowd.

The more we know (1)

Torino10 (1369453) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627759)

One of the most important facts to come out of these missions is that higher life forms, such as mammals, cannot effectively reproduce in micro gravity. That basically means very large radii spin simulated gravity space colonies will be needed to have self sustaining extraterrestrial human populations in case catastrophe strikes earth. These types of stations and infrastructures will require a large percentage of the Human race working together in a more social manner for the betterment of all mankind. The reduced gravity of the planet mars probably means that it is unsuitable for human reproduction and child rearing,, making any colonies dependent on other sources for manpower. Sorry folks, but there will be no single family homesteading in outer space.

Re:The more we know (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29627867)

"The reduced gravity of the planet mars probably means that it is unsuitable for human reproduction and child rearing"

And exactly what actual science do you have to leap to this conclusion, URL please....

Until you actually try to reproduce and raise children in 1/3 G you simply wont know for sure, and even more so you will need to test with humans who have been living in and have acclimated to 1/3 G for an extended period. Experiments on small mammals in centrifuges on ISS or on humans in 0G for brief periods aren't acceptable science for the conclusion you are leaping to.

Re:The more we know (1)

Torino10 (1369453) | more than 4 years ago | (#29630529)

Unfortunately experiments in reduced gravity are lacking, but to ignore what little data we do have would be very foolish as well. The fact that we do have data that implies very strongly that gravity plays a very important role in fertilization embryonic development and cell wall implantation.

While there are many URLs that do show the effects of microgravity and the few centrifuge experiments conducted on Mir, the best paper I have read so far was a document that came up on a google search entitled "Reproduction in Space" written by Eran Schenker, MD* and David M. Warmflash M.D.

Doing a google search of that title will bring up that document in the first few hits.

While the science is not yet conclusive on the matters of reduced gravity, it does strongly imply that reduced gravity will be a strong impediment to reproduction, hopefully centripetal acceleration will be an adequate substitute for actual gravity, the fact remains that much more research is needed before a good plan for building a space colonisation ifrastructure is decided upon. The ISS is the best place to conduct this research.

Re:The more we know (1)

skine (1524819) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628139)

How exactly does microgravity effect reproduction?

Pathology and Environmental Stresses (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628517)

There are few disciplines that have gleaned as much from exceptions to the norm as have biology and it's attendant practise medicine. Genetics and Morgan's studies of fruit flies by subjecting them to stresses, brain lesions and cognitive science, the list goes on and gives more than adequate support that biology experiments in space will pay dividends. The classic idea of a ceteris paribus experiment at 1 atmosphere, 20 degress C (? 25), done at sea level should make anyone want to jump on a chance to do experiments of any nature on the space station where one of the key fundamentals is changed.

Aside from international cooperation inherent in maintaining a space station and the sharing of information, I suspect space biology experiments, perhaps more so in terms of medicine, will pay ample dividends.

Re:Pathology and Environmental Stresses (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628575)

ok, so while the first cup of coffee kicks in, i'll guess my statements 1 atm and at sea level are equivalent. sorry 'bout that.

ISS science just beginning (2, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628631)

It's particularly worth noting that what's been done so far science-wise is only the beginning of science results from the ISS, as most of the effort so far has been in construction. The crew size was also just doubled this year, allowing for even more time to be spent devoted to science:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/6628585.html [chron.com]

After 15 years of construction, narrow congressional votes, delays and, yes, cost overruns, the $100 billion international space station finally appears ready for prime time. ... In May the space station doubled its crew from three to six astronauts, and this summer two space shuttle missions delivered a new laboratory and critical scientific equipment.
Then, earlier this month, a panel appointed by President Barack Obama to study the future of human spaceflight gave the station high marks, recommending its life be extended until at least 2020 and full funding to reach its potential.
The station is now beginning to do just that, as astronauts use the ISS for its intended purpose as an outpost for scientific research in a weightless environment, and learning to live for long periods in space. ...

Until now, crew efforts have focused on assembling disparate modules built by Russia, the United States, Japan and Europe into a cohesive whole. Since habitation began in 2000, therefore, astronauts have devoted only about 12,000 hours to scientific research.
Now with the crew expansion, and likely completion of the station by early 2011 allowing astronauts to swap their hard hats for test tubes, NASA estimates that total to increase by a factor of eight by 2015, to about 90,000 hours.

"We're just beginning to scratch the surface," said Julie Robinson, who oversees the ISS science program.

Not very interesting science (1, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628983)

Well, let's see what NASA is claiming this time.

  • Materials experiment - tests how materials withstand space conditions. Been there, done that [wikipedia.org] with the Long Duration Exposure Facility in 1984-1990.
  • Capillary flow in microgravity - OK, but why?
  • Magnetorheologic fluids in microgravity - cute, but magnetic particle clutches were used in IBM printers back to the 1960s.
  • Interferometer for ambient air - may be useful, but didn't need to be developed in space.
  • Crystal growth - lots of crystal growth work. Crystals grown in zero G are more uniform than ones grown in 1G. But not useful enough to justify launch costs.
  • Bird eggs in space - zero G doesn't seem to affect development much. They didn't hatch the birds, though.
  • Plants in space - grew thale cress from seed to seed. Grows OK in zero G, no major changes. Seeds a little bigger. Also a dwarf-wheat-in-space project, which works OK.
  • Cell growth in space - some cell cultures grow well in orbit, some don't. Bubbles caught in the middle of a material are a problem.
  • Microbes in space - growth about the same as in 1 G. Many equipment breakdowns.
  • Microencapsuluation in space - making liquid-filled microballoons as part of drug production. Microencapsuluation is known, but in zero-G, some things can be microencapsulated that won't hold together long enough in 1G. Possibly useful.
  • Soldering in zero G - turns out to produce more flaws than in 1 G, because bubbles stay in the solder.
  • Active rack isolation - people moving around make things vibrate, so they had to put in a stable platform that compensated. That work would better have been done without humans around.
  • Human research program - why living in zero G for too long is not good for you.
  • Observing the earth - done far better by satellites.
  • "Educational activities" - NASA PR.

This is many billions of dollars worth of work, remember.

Re:Not very interesting science (2, Insightful)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 4 years ago | (#29630441)

The ISS has cost well north of $100 billion so far. It hasn't come close to producing $100 billion worth of research. Or even $1 billion worth.

Imagine if we'd taken the $100 billion wasted on the ISS and spent it developing carbon nanotubes, or spent it on high-speed rail networks, or spent it researching wind or solar power. Or, for that matter, spent it on interplanetary probes. $100 billion would pay for a lot of Europa orbiters, landers and even a probe that could melt thru the surface and explore Europa's vast ocean.

Re:Not very interesting science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29631001)

And what would drilling into Europa's ocean get us? Nothing much really... except an excuse to spend another 100billion to maybe go back again and do something slightly different... see the pattern.

Re:Not very interesting science (1)

voss (52565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29632439)

unless you found something in those oceans....duh!

If you found even microbial life in Europas oceans , it would prove the existence of life beyond earth. No it would not cost $100 billion to do that mission
because it doesnt need to be a manned mission...yet. An unmanned probe can be sent and if life is not found or is found at the microscopic level then its wonderful science but not anything we need to spend 100 billion on.

If an unmanned probe can make it into those oceans and find life beyond the microscopic level...thats a game changer. Finding alien flora and fauna on a world in our own solar system would justify a manned mission to study it. At that point a manned mission would have all the funding it needed.

Re:Not very interesting science (1)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 4 years ago | (#29631041)

Imagine what SpaceX could do with $100 billion

$100 Billion Worth Of SpaceX Launch Failures! Joy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29631123)

Stay the fuck out of space stories idiot.

Re:$100 Billion Worth Of SpaceX Launch Failures! J (1)

uninformedLuddite (1334899) | more than 4 years ago | (#29633887)

geez what a wanker

Re:Not very interesting science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29637977)

Considering that the US is spending $2.5 billion a week in Iraq, is $100 billion spent on the ISS really that big of a waste? It isn't all funded by a single country either, and in a way allows the world to harbor friendly relationships through a mutual effort. (I realize this is a bit of a false dichotomy, but I feel it serves a useful point)

Re:Not very interesting science (1)

RalphTheWonderLlama (927434) | more than 4 years ago | (#29641745)

I'll just mention for the materials science, they just got a serious freezer and a serious furnace on board so they'll be doing tons of materials research with those. Lots of people and companies are interested in using those and some cool stuff can come out of that research.

cosmic rays (1)

screamphilling (1173499) | more than 4 years ago | (#29629307)

oblivious to any actual data on this i'm still fully convinced that prolonged life cycles outside of the atmosphere will result in really interesting mutations due to the cosmic rays and whatnot.

now we finally know! (1)

beefubermensch (575927) | more than 4 years ago | (#29629675)

Ants *can* sort tiny screws in space!

There are no real science results (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29632035)

How many $billions to grow a larger soya bean? If the space experiments had to compete for funding with other science projects I doubt any would get funding, even with a 99% subsidy. The ISS is not about science, it is about television. Very expensive television.

As to man going to Mars, astronoughts are obsolete technology. Get used to it -- robots are the way of the future in space. And, I fear, on earth as well.

T.

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