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NASA Expands Role of International Space Station

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the come-play-in-our-lab dept.

Biotech 153

coondoggie writes "NASA is looking for a few good experiments to run in space. The space agency this week said it was seeking research ideas (PDF) from private entities who want to do research on board the International Space Station. NASA said it was looking to expand the use of the ISS by providing access to the lab for the conduct of basic and applied research, technology development, and industrial processing to private entities — including commercial firms, non-profit institutions, and academic institutions. NASA said using the ISS as a national lab could help develop a number of applications in areas such as biotechnology, energy, engineering, and remote sensing."

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153 comments

too little... (1, Insightful)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002500)

...too late.

They should put an ad on Craigslist (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002524)

It worked for me when I was renting out a room.

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (4, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002852)

Penthouse apt for rent. Very cozy efficiency. Fully furnished. Magnificent view. Reserved parking for your vehicle. Onsite gymnasium. Great weight loss program (disclaimer: weight is not the same as mass). Exclusive community in a unique private out-of-the-way setting. Heat and utilities included. No pets. $40,000,000 a week.

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003052)

Sounds like typical California real-estate prices

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32004036)

Of course, they're out of this world!

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32003070)

Actually, ISS isn't nearly high enough to appreciably affect your weight (I think you're between 90% and 95% earth surface gravity at that height). You're not really in microgravity, null gravity, or anything close to that on the ISS. Just in freefall, same as on a parabolic flight.

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003184)

Turn in your geek card, please.

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (1)

Lord Pillage (815466) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003566)

I think what he meant is that at that distance from the planet, Earth's gravity is still 90-95% as strong as at sea level (the force of gravity is related by the inverse square of the distance). I'm not sure of the accuracy of that statement, however, I do believe the term micro-gravity applies to sustained orbits around Earth.

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004266)

You and AC are more or less correct. You may recall that gravity acts as though it was a point source at the center of mass; the difference in distance from the center of the earth between you and the ISS is relatively small.

Google [google.com] puts the radius of the earth at 6378 km, and Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] puts the ISS orbit at about 340km (perigee / apogee in the sidebar, if you don't know the terms), which is only about a 5% increase. So if earth is 1 Gee (and it is [wikipedia.org] ), at ISS height you would get (1/1.05) Gees = .95 Gees, more or less.

In particular AC had it exactly right; it only seems like there's no weight because you're constantly falling; "weight" (not mass, as natehoy said) means force, every force has an opposite, and there's no force opposing you if you're in freefall, until you hit something.

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004144)

You're not really in microgravity

Free fall makes a perfectly good microgravity environment. There may be gravitational forces present, but they are compensated for by the free fall, and therefore you are in a microgravity environment.

But, let's take your definition of "microgravity" which apparently means "no body close enough to have its gravitational field felt regardless of compensation" for the sake of argument. It's not what the term means, but let's assume it did.

Bear in mind that I never used any term containing the word "gravity" at all. I used the term "weight". In an environment where there is no effective gravitational force, there is no weight.

In the ISS, I would "weigh" very, very close to zero, despite my round tummy.

That weight is accurate in Metric AND Imperial, by the way. Just in case you needed that clarified.

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003554)

Hmm... sounds like the Super Adventure Club [wikipedia.org] from South Park...
No thanks. ^^

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32004020)

Were you the chick giving up her anal cherry to buy her kid an Xbox?

Re:They should put an ad on Craigslist (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004116)

One good experiment would be to drop a rope and see if an astronaut could climb back to terra firma.

Whoops!

Art Bell? (2, Funny)

XanC (644172) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002562)

Tell me we're not doing remote sensing experiments on the ISS!

Re:Art Bell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32002654)

I think they mean telepresence.

Re:Art Bell? (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002678)

What else can they do? It's just a bunch of folks floating around with clipboards doing what machines could do better, faster, and cheaper. It reminds me of those minimum wage workers who stand around on street corners waving signs, a job done just as well by a wooden post.

Re:Art Bell? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002796)

They need those people up there to whack a malfunctioning device with a hammer. It's hard to teach a monkey when to stop.

Re:Art Bell? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004086)

Just give them banana's when they stop. Karl Pilkington says it works.

Re:Art Bell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32003240)

Yeah, but you can't get a tax credit for putting a signpost in.

Oooh, Oooh, Idea! (2, Funny)

Revotron (1115029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002578)

Plane on a giant treadmill... in space!

Re:Oooh, Oooh, Idea! (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003374)

Oh come on a LOT better idea list.....

1 - how long do lawyers last in space without a space suit.
2 - effects on lawyers when exposed to explosive decompression.
3 - effects of solar radiation on a lawyer in a space suit.
4 - effects of solar radation on a lawyer without a space suit.
5 - effects of amoebic dysentery on a lawyer in micro-gravity.
6 - how long do lawyers last as an ablative shield during re-entry.
7 - what is the maximum ballistic speed a lawyer can reach.

etc...

Oh and as a control do the same experiments on MPAA and RIAA executives.

Re:Oooh, Oooh, Idea! (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004246)

Two great things about using Lawyers for research are:
1. The researchers don't begin to feel attached to the lawyers.
2. The SPCA and PETA won't bother you.

I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32002586)

I'm sick of unconstitutional wasting of my money. I should not be forced to pay for the intellectual curiosity of others.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (0)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002642)

Fine, Keep your money. But when the planet gets ready to explode, your grandkids are last in line on the spaceship

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002814)

We'll them on the one with Rosie O'Donnell and send it to the sun.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (2, Insightful)

Revotron (1115029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002650)

Okay, so let's cut all government funding of NASA because you don't want to support "intellectual curiosity". While we're at it, let's cut all government grants to US higher education institutions. After all, that's intellectual curiosity, too!~ And let's stop giving out government-awarded scholarships to promising students. Why the hell should we all pay because they want to learn more, do some research and solve our problems?~ And none of this publicly-funded disease research shit. Let the big pharma corporations handle it, we all know they're open and willing when it comes to sharing their discoveries and creations.~

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32002736)

I am in complete agreement. I don't want to be forced to pay for those things. I can pay voluntarily, thus if those institutions want my money, then they shall have to take part in activities that benefit me.

'Moral good' is no justification for breaking the law, and all of such spending is in violation of the Constitution. States are free to spend as their constituents desire.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32002908)

You probably should read the Constitution more carefully if you think that funding education, research, and national defense are counter the Constitution's purpose.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002686)

unconstitutional

[citation needed]

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32002890)

Article I, Section I: "All legislative powers herein granted..."

Nowhere after that statement is Congress granted the authority to do whatever it wishes. Congress is extremely limited in its powers. As James Madison said, "The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government."

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (2, Insightful)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003128)

Well it was before the Supreme Court fucked the citizens of the US out of their freedom with a truly horrible interpretation of the commerce clause.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (3, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002918)

I'll bet the use of your taxes to pay for public libraries really pisses you off too! You just sit there drinking your tang, typing on your computer and watching your satellite TV, bitching about all the money wasted on the space program...

Yet another ad hominem attack. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32004728)

Used because there is nothing else for you to argue with.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (4, Insightful)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003098)

I am so fine with that. Can we stop paying for the poor too? I just want the Government to give me 3 things. A standing military, infrastructure (Power, Water, Sewage, Transportation and Data), and to protect my ability to Pursue happiness.

I do not need my government to give me stuff. By the pursuit of happiness, I mean of course things like keeping monopolies from abusing their positions and encouraging real competition in the market place. So I can get rich if I really work at it.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003402)

Wow you're a major socialist...

I only want 3 things.

1 - to actually own the property I paid for... no your plot of land and your house are not yours, they belong to the feds,state,and city. any one of them can come and take it when they please.

2 - to actually be free to do what the hell I want as long as I dont hurt others.

3 - to get the hell off my lawn!

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (1)

JavaBasedOS (1217930) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004488)

But why do you want to get the hell off your lawn? It's such a nice lawn...

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003440)

Does pursuit of happiness include an education? Millions of extremely hard working but uneducated people would suggest that this is the path to being tired and poor, not rich.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (2, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003486)

If only the world would be so simple...

"Paying for the poor" helps to keep the place nicer all around, meaning you have more chance at all of "pursuing happiness". BTW, inancing first two things inevitably gives more opportunities for that pursuit to quite small group of people. And as to your ability to pursue happiness...people have shown time and time again that they generally have a hard time at moderation, a hard time not living on the credit of future generations (this graph [wikipedia.org] is especially "inconvenient")

No, I'm afraid it's not so simple.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32003640)

"I do not need my government to give me stuff."

Uh.. except apparently for military protection, electricity, clean water, sewage disposal, a ride, and access to information. No stuff there. Well, at least nothing "the poor" would be interested in: you certainly won't have to worry when they come through your windows in the night.

The US Constitution states that is is our right to pursue happiness, not that the government will help us in our pursuit in any way. (I assume that's the pursuit to which you refer.)

BTW, when you're rich (and old, and nobody likes you or the way you smell), what will you do then? I know of some hot real estate deals on Mercury, if you're interested.

Re:I'd rather keep my money, thanks. (2, Insightful)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003596)

I should not be forced to pay for the intellectual curiosity of others.

Actually, it's intellectual incuriosity that I'm tired of paying for.

...the 100 mile high club? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32002644)

Come on, we all want to know how sex in space works. Its probably the simplest experiment that would generate tons of interest.

Re:...the 100 mile high club? (2, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002882)

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to clean "bodily fluids" out of the air in zero-g?

Yes, "zero-g sex!" was my immediate reaction to this article as well.

Re:...the 100 mile high club? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32003082)

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to clean "bodily fluids" out of the air in zero-g?

No. And neither do you, but I bet there's anime that has already solved this problem for us.

Re:...the 100 mile high club? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003418)

actually quite easy. all you need is a rapid air turnover in that area with an absorbent air filter. all the floating "goo" will travel to the filter and stick.

Re:...the 100 mile high club? (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003592)

Or your mom. Breathing in and farting at the same time. Nothing ever gets out of that black hole again. /ducks :D

Re:...the 100 mile high club? (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003514)

Swallow. /problem

Re:...the 100 mile high club? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32002906)

Come on, we all want to know how sex in space works.

Two words: Velcro kneepads

Re:...the 100 mile high club? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32003484)

Come on, we all want to know how sex in space works. Its probably the simplest experiment that would generate tons of interest.

already tried :)

howver it doesn't work really well, since the lack of gravity makes it really difficoult for a man to have an erection

Re:...the 100 mile high club? (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004138)

That has already happened and it works so move on to something that hasn't been done.

Re:...the 100 mile high club? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004486)

Already been done on a plane like they use for astronaut training I think, but from what I gather it was more like floating together because the motions of sex lead them to drift apart. I'm sure you could make it happen by pinning against a wall but then it'd probably be like on earth except much more awkward. And even if they hadn't, I think this generation has seen too much porn to care about porn in space. At least moviesex in space, if not the real kind.

Case in point (1, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002652)

NASA emphasizes the utter uselessness of the ISS by asking people what interesting things can be done with it. This after spending billions of dollars and over a decade of work. This money should have been spent exclusively on robotic probes. There is no compelling case here for manned exploration.

I know, I know, the "get off this rock" crowd will now inundate us with their magical-religious space adventure cult emotional arguments.

Re:Case in point (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002716)

as a "get off this rock"'er, personally it's a logical conclusion to come to, The planet has limited resources. the universe, eh not so much. Robots don't do so well when you leave the solar system, Just try doing surgery across the country more or less send commands that will takes years to get there. sending a person just makes more since, granted it will probably have to be a generation ship. manned exploration is pretty important prereq for building a generation ship.

Re:Case in point (2, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002984)

With all due respect, "getting off this rock" is a fantasy. Consider this: How much money, time, and resources would it cost to move 10 million people (a miniscule fraction of the earth's population) "off this rock" in a manner that they could survive for 100 years (a miniscule fraction of humanity's longevity up until now)? Put them 1) in earth orbit, 2) on the moon, or 3) on mars. Have them be 1) totally dependent on earth for their consumables and other resources, 2) dependent on earth only for half, and 3) completely self sustained. At the end of the 100 year period they should be completely self-sustained in any scenario you choose.

Please don't make extensive use of the old "we don't know what super-advanced technology there will be" trick to pretend that at some point it will all be really cheap and easy. Historically, that has never happened. Powerful new industrial technologies have always been expensive, and this particular case will be no exception. Creating large scale habitation is also always expensive in direct proportion to the inhospitability of the environment and its distance from vital resources.

Re:Case in point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32003376)

Thank you very much. You have helped me realize the futility of our dreams, and I'm now cutting my wrists after having poisoned my family and pets. Enjoy the extra elbow room for about 3.7 seconds, gravitybitch.

Re:Case in point (2, Insightful)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003502)

Creating large scale habitation is also always expensive in direct proportion to the inhospitability of the environment and its distance from vital resources.

Right. So if we never spend the time and money to learn how to make it work right here in LEO with a small population we will never learn how to make it work on a larger scale. New industrial technologies are expensive. For example: Can you imagine how costly the first functional farm tractors were to small time farmers that hoed their few acres with animal power? But do you see how the development and refinement of those technologies have led to wonderful advances in how farms are managed?

Re:Case in point (3, Insightful)

FSWKU (551325) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003570)

With all due respect, "colonizing the New World" is a fantasy. Consider this: How much money, time, and resources would it cost to move 10,000 people (a miniscule fraction of England's population) "to the New World" in a manner that they could survive for 10 years (a miniscule fraction of human life). Put them 1) on a ship, 2) on an island, or 3) on the mainland. Have them 1) be totally dependent on England for equipment, resources and tools, 2) dependent on England for only half, and 3) completely self-sustained. At the end of the 10 year period, they should be completely self-sustained in any scenario you choose.

Please don't make extensive use of the old "we don't know what advances there will be" trick to pretend that at some point it will all be really cheap and easy. Historically, that has never happened. Larger, more advanced sailing ships have always been expensive, and this particular case will be no exception. Creating large-scale colonies is also always expensive in direct proportion to the inhospitability of the environment and its distance from the resource support of the crown.

Nobody is saying that it will be cheap or even easy in the remotely near future. But is that really a valid reason to not even make the attempt? You have to start somewhere, and it will NEVER be cheap/routine if we as a society don't start working toward that goal. Along the way, we can use the technological advances derived from such exploration to (hopefully) better life for those here on Earth. Even something unrelated to ship construction or propulsion systems (such as a self-sustaining food/oxygen supply) could be scaled up to benefit people in the more remote regions of the world.

Re:Case in point (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004270)

Don't bother. Way too many /.ers have been raised on science fiction bullshit to ever really contemplate the scale involved or the challenges involved (or impracticality of) actual space colonization. It doesn't do any good to point out that it would be MUCH easier to build a sustainable colony at the bottom of the deepest ocean on earth than to build one anywhere out in the black.

Barring some amazing discoveries, it's pretty unlikely that any other body in our solar system could ever support even a small colony for any length of time without massive imports of resources from earth. It's a nice dream, but a dream is all it will remain. Our course true believers always fire back with the "But what if an big asteroid is heading for earth?" scenario. But unless the asteroid in question is going to reduce earth to dust (and that's a BIG asteroid indeed), it's still going to be a lot easier to survive here than anywhere out there.

Re:Case in point (2, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004658)

This is actually quite false.

Building an air tight pressure vessel capable of supporting an internal pressure 1 atmosphere higher than the outside pressure is a solved problem. Hell, we can even make it inflatable and almost but not quite arbitrary size and shape.

Building an water tight pressure vessel capable of supporting an internal pressure over a thousand atmospheres less than the outside pressure is a ridiculously hard problem that is almost but not quite solved for a 6ft wide sphere with a skin taking up more than 10% of its diameter. Without revolutionary new materials, that proportion of the thickness of the wall increases dramatically as the size of the space increases and in most cases is not even approaching practical for shapes other than a nearly perfect sphere.

The big cost in dealing with space colonization is getting raw material from the bottom of our relatively deep gravity well. And that is a problem that can be mitigated by bringing material from the much shallower gravity wells of the moon and asteroids once there is some infrastructure out there.

However the big costs of colonizing the deep sea will always be the engineering and material required to keep 7 miles of water from finding even the tiniest path to the inside of the vessel.

Re:Case in point (1)

Stenchwarrior (1335051) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003646)

The planet has limited resources.

Says who? The planet may have "limited resources" the way we are using them now but who says there won't be renew-able energy discovered or developed at some point? Why couldn't we find a super-efficient way to harness the energy from the sun to power everything and stop using the "limited resources", for example? I personally believe we have everything here we need. If we make it to another planet and find a way to make it habitable then cool, but we need to focus on finding a way to survive here indefinitely.

Of course, by the time we have that all figured out the A.I. we will have created will become the top of the food chain and we'll be annihilated in the robot wars, anyways.

Re:Case in point (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002824)

NASA emphasizes the utter uselessness of the ISS by asking people what interesting things can be done with it.

Yes, and the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is useless as demonstrated by NASA asking people what interesting things could be photographed with it. Manned stations, robotic probes, equally useless!

P.S. I agree, more robotic probes. But seriously, sending out a call for researchers to propose experiments is not an indication of uselessness.

Re:Case in point (1, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003100)

No, not equally useless, one is practical and the other is not. You are creating one of the usual straw men. Assuming for the sake of argument that they can do the same things, manned space flight does it far more slowly (much longer project lead times), far more expensively (need to support delicate human life), and far less ambitiously (anything beyond low earth orbit is beyond prohibitively expensive). Let's see, which one would be a better way to express our penchant for exploration, curiosity, and scientific investigation? It is a no-brainer, pure and simple.

Re:Case in point (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003344)

Sorry, you said that asking for suggestions on research to be done just emphasizes its uselessness. That's not a strawman, that's what you said. It's not my fault that same logic applies equally to things you like such as MRO or Hubble.

Let's not assume that manned and unmanned missions can do the same thing, because they can't. Manned missions can't visit Saturn or Mars yet for that matter. And there are plenty of experiments that are much more easily performed with human supervision than without, and with pre-existing infrastructure than without. ISS is already up there, and contains space-shuttle-payload size bays designed exclusively for research. It isn't useless, the space agencies involved are already performing experiments on it. Expanding the number of experiments done is expanding its usefulness, not admitting it isn't useful at all as you claimed.

Again, we're in agreement that robotic probes are cheaper and better for exploring the solar system and beyond. I disagree with your stance that the ISS is useless. And your statement that asking for research to be conducted on it demonstrates this uselessness is factually and logically wrong.

Re:Case in point (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004052)

Perhaps it's also a nice bonus of progress? iniaturization have taken its toll and the typical experimental equipment is now somewhat smaller slightly faster than expected, with more place for experiments (there was a story recently about miniature experiment containers for the ISS). Or maybe some better communication with the ISS won't mean overburdening the crew with excessive amount of experiments.

Re:Case in point (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004140)

However, a manned mission could in fact visit Venus...briefly.

Re:Case in point (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003624)

I know, I know, the "get off this rock" crowd will now inundate us with their magical-religious space adventure cult emotional arguments.

And what is the use of that knowledge to a rock bound species that just sits in its own wastes watching its resources dwindle?

Re:Case in point (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003830)

Sure, construction of the ISS was flawed & expensive (most likely also largely because of the costly mistake which was the Shuttle and the push to save its face...to make it usefull for something; so "hey, why don't we design a space station around modules meant to be launched by Shuttle?!"); could be done much cheaper via autonomous rendezvouz of modules probably. And that's how few upcoming, certinly in some aspects better (and cheaper) space stations will be built. Better also thanks to ISS, our training ground - we have problems even with toilets...

OK, you might consider such acitivities a waste even when they will be much cheaper and more refined. But it's not either-or...especially since the budget for ISS was miniscule in comparison with some really wastefull activities. And it helps keep the public attention at NASA, hence perhaps keeping alive unmanned exploration, too. And we have to refine the basics, they will come handy at some point.
Especially since autonomous probes will have some serious limitations for a long time. Humans also have them of course; but why not combine the two, their strenghts? Does a fleet of robots which are mostly autonomous but occasionally teleoperated by members of small crew orbiting the place really sound so bad?

In the meantime, if the ISS is mostly complete, why not use it to advance our knowledge in the best possible (call for proposals is about that really) fashion?

lava lamp (3, Funny)

rev_sanchez (691443) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002700)

I say we send one up there and plug it in and point a webcam at it.

Re:lava lamp (0, Troll)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002880)

"Can it blend... in Zero G?"

Re:lava lamp (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003076)

Don't even need the glass container

Re:lava lamp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32004096)

I 3 lamp!

Cosmic Exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32002718)

LSD. In space.

Re:Cosmic Exploration (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003176)

LSD. In space.

That's kind of redundant, isn't it?
   

Pull my finger . . . (0, Offtopic)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002728)

. . . in space?

It might figure out that missing methane mystery.

You mean to say (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002774)

That they are just now doing what they were supposed to be doing since the beginning?

Re:You mean to say (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003002)

In short, yes. Sucks, don't it?

Re:You mean to say (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003580)

Well, I have to grant that they just finished the thing... I think. I suppose the first experiment should be a better toilet and other waste disposal problems. Farming.. And cooking. There are few things more important than good food.

Out of interest (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002786)

What kind of work is useful to experiment on in microgravity?
I know there's some material science stuff but what else?

Re:Out of interest (3, Interesting)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002862)

What kind of work is useful to experiment on in microgravity?

Don't know how useful it is, but Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki has demonstrated that soap bubbles retain their color in space [mainichi.jp] , answering a scientific question from her daughter.

Again, how useful this is will depend on the person.

Re:Out of interest (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002996)

Haven't they already done all the metal foaming and silicone crystal growth experiments in microgravity? What other materials science experiments are left?

Re:Out of interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32003622)

Foaming is nice and all and can produce interesting materials, but at this point in the game it really doesn't seem that useful just yet. When it comes to material science, I think it's much more important right now to do serious work in collecting and utilizing raw material resources in micro-gravity.

I'd say we bring up some nickel-iron ore aggregate (similar to that which is likely in metal rich asteroids) and experimental packages to try various automated methods of collecting, smelting, refining, and extruding it in microgravity. This is to see if you can make ingots or wire spools that would useful for construction and manufacturing. Subsequent series of experiments would involve testing highly automated processes for working with those forms of processed material in microgravity. These experiments could be mounted on a package external to the habitation modules and the astronauts can do the occasional EVA to make alterations or figure out what kind of wear and tear is to be expected. All of this would be very useful information for the future.

The sooner we can figure out how to do a lot of (preferably automated) industrial-type mining and manufacturing processes in space, the sooner we'll be able to do a lot more up there without the expensive cost of bringing stuff up from Earth's gravity well.

Justifcation for it's existence? (0, Flamebait)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002806)

So, if they're asking for ideas, then that means they never had a plan on what to do with the thing once it was built?

And in the meantime NASA has been struggling for funding for scientific projects.

Nice. Taxpayer money at work! Way to go Washington!

Suggestions (3, Interesting)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002896)

Sadly since I pissed off 1 to many NASA engineers in the past (blah blah Crusader project by UDLP, blah blah trying making some money... blah blah blah remote mining and processing project... sub orbital meteor mining is a stupid idea...)

Anyway they'll no likely to talk to me (ever again) so here are my suggestions. Please feel free to run with them:

1: Sex (Duh. We all want to know.)
2: Artifical ring construction via centrifical force =

Take a spinning sphere and launch a tethered satellite while still spinning. from the teathered satellite launch another teather out such that the secondary teather is long enough to have the circumfrence of the satellite's oribital circumfurance. See if you can get it to hook up back to the original satellite to create an artifical ring on which we can construct stuff. (may required 2 satellites at opposite sides.

3: Behavior of molten metal in low gravity for crystal structure analysis (see if effect is more brittle or harded.)

4: Better estimate of open space survival time of a human being.

5: Field test atmosphering re-entry capable space suit for orbital deployment of troops (GETA LL WARHAMMA 40K ON YA!)

6: Polymer extrusion and blown film line test in low gravity for polymer chain linkage testing.

7: Smoking in the cargo bay in low-G (Can you blow smoke rings in low-g)

8: Will a paper airplain with a weight of less then .5 lbs survive re-entry to Earth?

9: Subspace structural testing to see if spacial structure exists (e.g. test if space itself has an actual shape, e.g. a quantum of space itself (rather then an infinitly divisible continum))

10: Test if the bullshit in DC is so thick you can really smell it on the ISS.

Just a few...

Re:Suggestions (4, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003028)

centrifical

teather(ed)

oribital circumfurance

atmosphering re-entry

is more brittle or harded

paper airplain

infinitly divisible continum

The first requirement of submitted proposals to NASA is to do so in English. We all know how well foreign languages (or measurement systems) work out. C'mon, this isn't rocket science! :)

It does lead me to one important question, however...

Polymer extrusion and blown film line test in low gravity for polymer chain linkage testing.

How do you spell "polymer", "extrusion", "gravity", and "linkage" correctly and use them in a coherent-sounding sentence, then get "airplane" wrong? ;)

Re:Suggestions (1)

dunezone (899268) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003134)

The first response to some interesting ideas is to insult the writers English skills?

Re:Suggestions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32003682)

Some people piss in a jug so they can pour it on their cornflakes every_damned_morning.

Re:Suggestions (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003710)

Well, this discussion shows what has become of slashdot lately. 74 post as I post this, and basically nothing but spelling nazis wanking of to their assumed wit, libertarian numbnuts wanking off to their supreme "knowledge" of the constitution, general numbnuts wanking off to their own lack of vision. That, and a negligible amount of actually interesting posts. We are at a signal to noise ration of about 1:20 to 1:30 here, guys. Way to go, that's probably a new low.

Re:Suggestions (1)

tophermeyer (1573841) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004070)

There is a difference between poor English and lazy English. I'm more inclined to be lenient of grammar and flow issues than I am of systemic failure to even begin to care about spelling, especially because I don't know what languages the OP speaks and what their English proficiency is.

The poster you are replying to has a point in that "The first requirement of submitted proposals to NASA is to do so in English". If the author does not care so much about their ideas to make sure they are spelling words centrifugal or circumference correctly, why should anyone entertain the proposal to study those things?

Re:Suggestions (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003130)

Will a paper airplain with a weight of less then .5 lbs survive re-entry to Earth?

Even if it does, good luck finding it. If you put a tracking device on it, it will likely weigh too much for the test.

Re:Suggestions (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003478)

Ohhh I like that idea... a REALLY FRICKING HIGH HALO jump...

I guarantee they can get a few marines with more balls than brains to try that one.

What is the payload weight of a shuttle? (1)

boneclinkz (1284458) | more than 4 years ago | (#32002934)

I would like to see how much weight Dave Tate could bench press aboard the ISS.

Re:What is the payload weight of a shuttle? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003056)

Fully-laden? What do you mean, and African or European Shuttle?

Whose lab is it anyway? (2, Insightful)

Chonnawonga (1025364) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003038)

Wait, they want to turn the International Space Station into a national lab? What about all the other countries with a stake in this real estate?

Re:Whose lab is it anyway? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003092)

Same deal as the Russians taking tourists up, I suppose. Many of the support systems are common, but as I understand it each country has some allocated space. The science experiments would probably be subcontracted out to NASA and NASA would do them in its allocated space.

Re:Whose lab is it anyway? (1)

xOneca (1271886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003264)

I was to say the same! BTW, I like the idea of the lab...

Re:Whose lab is it anyway? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32004534)

That was just so much NASA PR (about the only thing they do well anymore). NASA has always regarded the ISS as their exclusive territory. Remember how pissy [space.com] they got when the Russians wanted to bring up a tourist (just because they realized it would give the Russians another "first" in space)?

National lab ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32003340)

The International space station is now a national lab.

ZERG!! (1)

locopuyo (1433631) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003480)

How do the Zerg fly in space?

Weren't these kinds of ideas... (1, Troll)

thepainguy (1436453) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003718)

...supposed to be proposed before the ISS was launched?

I'm sorry, but I'm a big fan of NASA and I find this whole effort to be ridiculous. The ISS was sold as a tool that would provide all of these critical capabilities and now, all of a sudden, they have to drum up business.

Sorry, but the ISS has officially become a Solution In Search Of A Problem.

ISS? (1)

h2k1 (661151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32003904)

Am I confused? How an International Space Station becomes a national lab? Isn't it supposed to be International?

Does anyone can tell how much each country/space agency puts in (costs, investigation output, media coverage, etc.) the ISS?
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