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Is the ISS Really Worth $100 Billion?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the sure,-take-a-check? dept.

NASA 503

Ponca City writes "JR Minkel writes on Space.com that as NASA celebrates the 10th anniversary of astronauts living on the space station — and with construction essentially complete — the question remains: will the International Space Station ever really pay off scientifically? The space agency contends that the weightless environment provided by the station offers a unique way of unmasking processes of cell growth and chemistry that are hidden on Earth, but some critics don't see a zero gravity laboratory as filling a crucial scientific need. Gregory Petsko, a biochemist at Brandeis University, says the only basic science justification he has ever heard for the station is that protein molecules form superior crystals in the microgravity of space than they do on Earth and a best-case scenario, in terms of return on investment, would be if a space-grown crystal were used to design a blockbuster pharmaceutical drug that worked by precisely targeting one of those proteins. Naturally NASA sees things differently. 'I think those who are naysayers haven't given us a chance — haven't given us enough time to show what we can do. We're just now turning the path to be able to go full force on our science. In the past we had to fit it in around assembly, we didn't have the facilities available, and the crew was always busy.'"

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I hear they are coming out with a new flavor .. (5, Funny)

fkx (453233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095174)

I hear they are coming out with a new flavor .. of tang.

That has to be worth something.

Ebay (3, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095272)

Put it on eBay and find out what it's worth,

Re:Ebay (1)

fkx (453233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095328)

I don't see why we can't have auctions right here on slashdot .. if facebook can do it ..

Re:Ebay (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095432)

And the item goes to ... Anonymous Coward! :-)

Look at it this way (0, Troll)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095190)

$100 billion for space-based research or $100 billion for Welfare and War.

Not really a touch decision.

Re:Look at it this way (0, Redundant)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095240)

Bingo

Re:Look at it this way (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095640)

Jerry Espensen [wikipedia.org] , is that you?

Re:Look at it this way (3, Funny)

treeves (963993) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095268)

It's easy to see it's not a tough decision, since we have both!

Re:Look at it this way (1)

booyabazooka (833351) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095836)

Yeah, when you have absolutely no qualms about being trillions of dollars in public debt, there really is no such thing as a dichotomy when it comes to spending.

Afro-American Racism Against Whites and Asians (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095282)

During the election, about 95% of African-Americans voted for Barack Hussein Obama due solely to the color of his skin. See the exit-polling data [cnn.com] by CNN.

Note the voting pattern of Hispanics, Asian-Americans, etc. These non-Black minorities serve as a measurement of African-American racism against Whites (and other non-Black folks). Neither Barack Hussein Obama nor John McCain is Hispanic or Asian. So, Hispanics and Asian-Americans used only non-racial criteria in selecting a candidate and, hence, serve as the reference by which we detect a racist voting pattern. Only about 65% of Hispanics and Asian-Americans supported Obama. In other words, a maximum of 65% support by any ethnic or racial group for either McCain or Obama is not racist and, hence, is acceptable. (A maximum of 65% for McCain is okay. So, European-American support at 55% for McCain is well below this threshold and, hence, is not racist.)

If African-Americans were not racist, then at most 65% of them would have supported Obama. At that level of support, McCain would have won the presidential race.

At this point, African-American supremacists (and apologists) claim that African-Americans voted for Obama because he (1) is a member of the Democratic party and (2) supports its ideals. That claim is an outright lie. Look at the exit-polling data [cnn.com] for the Democratic primaries. Consider the case of North Carolina. Again, about 95% of African-Americans voted for him and against Hillary Clinton. Both Clinton and Obama are Democrats, and their official political positions on the campaign trail were nearly identical. Yet, 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama and against Hillary Clinton. Why? African-Americans supported Obama due solely to the color of his skin.

Here is the bottom line. Barack Hussein Obama does not represent mainstream America. He won the election due to the racist voting pattern exhibited by African-Americans.

African-Americans have established that expressing "racial pride" by voting on the basis of skin color is 100% acceptable. Neither the "Wall Street Journal" nor the "New York Times" complained about this racist behavior. Therefore, in future elections, please feel free to express your racial pride by voting on the basis of skin color. Feel free to vote for the non-Black candidates and against the Black candidates if you are not African-American. You need not defend your actions in any way. Voting on the basis of skin color is quite acceptable by today's moral standard.

Re:Afro-American Racism Against Whites and Asians (2, Funny)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095342)

Semper Non-sequitor!

Re:Look at it this way (0, Troll)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095300)

How about 100 billion that could still be in the pocketbooks of millions?

There is a third choice, letting the people keep the money they earn.

Re:Look at it this way (2, Insightful)

francium de neobie (590783) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095408)

Divide it by the US's population, that's a bit more than $300 for each person... you can eat a nice meal with that but it's not a lot.

In that case, I'd choose science.

Re:Look at it this way (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095470)

It may not be "a lot" to you, but that equals out to be about $600 per couple, enough to cover a month's rent in many cases. Enough to buy a few months of groceries.

Re:Look at it this way (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095528)

So, a month's rent, spent over more than ten years. Would that really have made a noticeable difference in your life?

Re:Look at it this way (0, Flamebait)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095576)

Would a roommate who stole $2.50 from you every month out of your wallet bug you? Sure, its not much but you'd sure as hell rather him keep his hands off of your wallet.

Re:Look at it this way (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095866)

If he brought me a few stock certificates for his Internet business that went public, I might not feel so bad.

More likely, if he tutored me in in Astrophysics for $2.50/week, I'm pretty sure I would not mind IF I passed the course. And if I needed it.

Yes, investing in the ISS is not so obvious a payback as the Chevy Volt. Or is it?

Re:Look at it this way (1)

Lucky75 (1265142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095878)

Irrelevant argument. I get nothing out of my roommate stealing $2.50 (actually only $0.89 a month over 30 years), whereas the space station helps us grow as a civilization leading not only to an unmeasurable amount of scientific advancement but also helps provide potential security to threats from space (such as meteors or aliens ;) ). The investment of 100 billion dollars is invaluable to us as a civilization. Certainly it helps me more than my roommate stealing money (unless he uses that money to directly or indirectly have a positive influence on my life in the future).

Re:Look at it this way (0, Offtopic)

JorDan Clock (664877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095580)

Actually, $300 right now would make a huge difference in my life. I have a few debts from when I was unemployed and $300 would make the difference between always worrying about overdrafts and just being broke.

Re:Look at it this way (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095754)

But realistically, if $300 will make a huge difference in your life, chances are they only took about a buck fifty from you, and about $1800 from people with more income....

Re:Look at it this way (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095800)

Ask the military for a refund then. Their budget is excess of $5000 billion for same time period. That's a *only* $16.5k per every individual, or if you want, per individual taxpayer (about 130m in the US), you are looking at only $38,500 refund....

I'd rather spend money on R&D rather than destruction.

Re:Look at it this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095686)

Perhaps you should ask the unborn, the sick, the dying or those who sought shelter in some form of refuge, the need for which may have been obviated had the funds been spent on public health, technology for sustainable living, energy efficiency or research into modeling a sustainable (rather than predatory) economy.

Personally, I don't believe that the money spent trying to get off the only viable ecosystem man will know in the foreseeable future is well-spent. But then my job doesn't depend upon believing otherwise, so I'm freer than most to think that.

Re:Look at it this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095704)

Multiply that one-month's rent by the number of pet projects each member of Congress says are only costing each person x dollars. Pretty soon you're really putting a strain on the average family's budget.

"I place economy among the first and important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our choice between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and in our comforts, in our labors and in our amusements. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of caring for them, they will be happy."
-Thomas Jefferson

Re:Look at it this way (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095546)

For $300 it had better be one hell of a nice meal.

But yeah.

Re:Look at it this way (0, Offtopic)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095896)

If you've got $300 to spend on a meal and you're in Houston. Check out Marks in Montrose. Dinner for 2 will set you back about $300, but it'll be fantastic. Hard to say that it's worth it, but it's the best meal I've ever had.

Re:Look at it this way (1)

anyGould (1295481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095570)

Divide it by the US's population, that's a bit more than $300 for each person... you can eat a nice meal with that but it's not a lot. In that case, I'd choose science.

Less, actually - TFA says the US only paid half (us lesser countries paid the rest). So, $150 per US citizen over 10 years. Or, $15 per person per year.

(As an aside, is there anywhere that shows the US budget on a per-person basis like this?)

Re:Look at it this way (2, Insightful)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095414)

If you dont think we should research, then please go back to using fire.
You dont get to moan and complain and benefit from it at the same time.

Re:Look at it this way (1, Troll)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095534)

There is a huge difference between research and wealth distribution.

There is nothing about research that makes me pay for a non-existent product. If GE wants to research a new refrigeration technology, it doesn't take money out of my paycheck, rather it can use surpluses given to it in a competitive (and the word competitive is important) market to go towards R&D. When I buy a GE fridge, I want a fridge that does what its supposed to do. What GE does with that money is up to them. However, with the government there is no say in it. There is no competitive market and there can not legally be one.

Research can be done ethically, not by stealing my money.

Re:Look at it this way (2, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095662)

You wouldn't be typing your message out and transmitting it if the US Government hadn't underwritten much of the key R&D that went into it, not to mention the infrastructure.

Or, to put it another way, you're an ignorant hypocrite.

Re:Look at it this way (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095710)

But there wasn't anything special about governments that made it possible. It was simply that in the late 60s no one but the US government had enough computers and the like to make it be possible.

If the internet had not been born from the government, I have little doubt I'd still be typing this message on it, it simply would have been born from a corporation, perhaps with better features and the like.

Re:Look at it this way (2, Interesting)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095672)

Are you using a wifi network right now or in the last 6 months?

If so bugger off. Australian taxes paid for the CSIRO to do their excellent work. Not even your own tax money.

Your moaning, yet you still benefit.

"Competitive"? (2, Interesting)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095690)

The ISS, or the LHC, or any other major research project wasn't built with competition in mind.

Competition is a bad thing, not a good thing. It results in monopolies, since the whole point of competition is to eliminate competitors.

Why would you want monopolies?

Re:Look at it this way (2, Interesting)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095716)

Advanced research is and always has been funded by governments.

Right now, the average corporation is barely looking past next quarters returns. Anything that can't turn a profit this fiscal year is not done by average corporations.

Even long term investments expect a return within 5 to 10 years at the most. If it wont produce profit in that timeframe, it won't be done.

Government needs to finance theoretical and advanced research, otherwise new opportunities for applied research that private orgs are willing to invest in will rapidly dry up.

Re:Look at it this way (2, Informative)

the gnat (153162) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095720)

There is nothing about research that makes me pay for a non-existent product.

Most basic research takes decades to turn into a marketable product. To take my favorite example, X-ray crystallography, it took 25 years from the first experiments with protein crystals to actually determine a structure, then another 25 years for the method to mature enough for pharmaceutical companies to use it. Simultaneously, it also took 25 years for a particular type of particle accelerator to be recognized as useful for crystallography. There is simply no profit to be had in a reasonable amount of time from this kind of fundamental groundwork. The particle accelerators in particular cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. Only a handful of companies in the world have enough money to spend on blind research like this. Even some of those would probably be at risk of shareholder lawsuits if they were devoting hundreds of millions on research of questionable use.

I won't get into the issue of morality, because it's simply impossible to argue with someone who claims that "taxation is theft." Strictly from a free market standpoint, there is no financial incentive to invest in basic research without any hint of a future product. I personally think that the ISS has been a waste of time and money that has detracted from more promising space exploration projects, but none of this would happen if left to companies like, say, GE. (Private charities? I wish - only a handful of those can afford mega-projects, and they risk alienating major donors if something turns out to be a blind alley.)

Let's NEVER go in that direction (1, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095472)

The third choice of "limited government" never works, and only leads to tragic outcomes, because to put it simply: the public is incapable of making decisions on their own that benefit society.

Right now, if you give the public more money, they will simply send it to China or Saudi Arabia.

We need government to spend the public's money in a focused manner, that the public would NOT do on their own.

Government is what determines economic direction, not the public.

Somalia has "limited government". Somalia is also a failure. We don't want to be like Somalia.

We need more socialism and government control, not less.

Government needs to be expanded and be given more control, let's make sure we give them more power tomorrow.

Remember, DON'T BE LIKE SOMALIA.

Re:Let's NEVER go in that direction (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095584)

France has a massive government and has been in a state of mass riots for over a week.

Remember, DON'T BE LIKE FRANCE.

Re:Let's NEVER go in that direction (1, Interesting)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095604)

More people want to be like france than want to be like somalia.

Therefore, a massive government is better than a "limited government".

Remember, DON'T BE LIKE SOMALIA, with their silly "limited government".

Re:Let's NEVER go in that direction (3, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095764)

Both are true. Socialism is good. Capitalism is good. Socialism is bad. Capitalism is bad. We don't necessarily need more of one or the other. but better of each.

Re:Let's NEVER go in that direction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095606)

Our government already sends a huge of our funds to China and Saudi Arabia. More government will mean more funds going out of the country.

Fuck that. The country needs to be free. Free to succeed and free to fail.

Freedom is overrated (1, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095646)

We need more government control, since government spending results in more spending within the US compared to consumer spending.

Freedom just means more corporate control, and the resulting export of money to foreign countries through corporations incorporated in foreign countries and shareholders in foreign countries.

Government doesn't have shareholders in foreign countries.

And look at it another way (2, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095530)

Also, the money that "they earn" is never their own.

People don't earn money on their own. They earn it with cooperation of government that designed a system to enable a person to earn that bit of money in the first place.

The money that "they earn" is just one step of a much larger system where the public is expected to pay back into the system that allowed them to earn money in the first place.

Remember, without a proper system of government that is designed to encourage spending, you would not be able to earn money in the first place.

Re:And look at it another way (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095648)

Yes it is.

It makes no sense for a government which has fixed costs to mandate a variable cost system of theft. There is a fundamental mistake in figuring that someone who makes $15,000 a year uses less government than the person who makes $300,000. Costs are fixed and should be based simply on fixed costs. You should pay for what you use. If you use $3,000 in government programs you should have to pay $3,000 no matter if you make $15,000 a year or $300,000 a year.

Re:And look at it another way (0, Troll)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095760)

Remember, a person that only makes $15,000 a year uses less government than a person that makes $300,000 a year.

Government is a tool for wealth. People that make more money, use more government. That is what all those millions of laws are for, for rich people.

You know that Arizona immigration law? It was written by millionaires that own prison businesses: http://topics.npr.org/article/0eWt7HBbjtbJX?q=NPR [npr.org]

If you make a million dollars from government, you should pay government a million dollars.

Re:Look at it this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095590)

Oh please. You and I both know it would be more like 1 billion in the pockets of 100, and not a penny would filter its way down to regular citizens.

Re:Look at it this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095468)

So it's OK to waste 100 billion because it's not as bad as war? That's the best justification you can come up with to defend half a century of Space Nuttery? War at least gave us technology; re WWII, which in turn led to Space Nuttery.

Re:Look at it this way (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095816)

You're suggesting that space didn't give us technology? Seriously?

Re:Look at it this way (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095488)

My gut agrees, but my brain thinks things are more complex than that.
I'm not convinced it's wasteful to spend money stabilizing the economic group most likely to become dangerous criminals or vectors for disease.
War is wasteful by definition, but may be needed to provide social stability.
The value of the ISS is part PR for science, part PR for international collaboration, part potentially monetizable research, and part curiosity research.

Generally, I think the value of the ISS isn't reasonably measured in whether it "turns a profit". The value seems to me high enough to justify it's function, given the alternatives. And even other alternatives.

Re:Look at it this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095500)

It's an american type of question. Considering they're now starting to lose their lead in research, it's easy to see it's a dumb attitude.

Re:Look at it this way (4, Insightful)

Ecuador (740021) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095700)

Actually it is not even like that. $100 billion is over an estimated 30 years for ISS, while just the war in Iraq costs over $100 billion per year, ON TOP of the $600+ billion per year for the base US army budget. The ISS and everything that has been spent in space exploration over the last 2-3 decades is peanuts compared to military spending.

Re:Look at it this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095844)

More than that, how much industry, and technology has spawned (see now private space industry) off of the constant political scrutiny that comes attached to all things NASA?

There's also the assumption that the ISS was a ROI endeavor from the beginning, or is it that Capitalism must be the tow line for any government expenditure. I sure ass hell don't remember hearing about ROI when the ISS was built, but I guess our economy wasn't suffering from a complete fleecing then as well. Oh, that's right. We were at the pinnacle of economic progress then.

If this doesn't paint a very clear picture of modern politics, nothing does. Rather small in terms of funding, but publicly, one of the largest targets of any that exist from the Government.

The bullshiat continues to pile up, and the media keeps feeding.

Making things is just as good as using things (4, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095206)

I'm assuming that various technologies and engineering solutions were developed in order to build the station and get it assembled in orbit, so even if no science is done on the station from this day forward, much knowledge was undoubtedly gained already. Knowledge that would probably not have come about from non-space-station-related projects. 100 Billion dollars is a lot of money, but humanity has blown significantly larger sums of money on way less useful stuff on many occasions.

Salient quote (4, Insightful)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095288)

Strange how much human accomplishment and progress comes from contemplation of the irrelevant. - Scott Kim

Re:Making things is just as good as using things (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095354)

Um, you mean the technologies that were basically all figured out with MIR?

Re:Making things is just as good as using things (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095422)

The only piece of knowledge that I can think of which was a result of the ISS is knowing that the scuttle was a really bad idea. Personally I doubt if that knowledge was worth the price paid.

Is it really? (2, Interesting)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095802)

Sure, back when the space agency was pushing the cutting edge it resulted in the development of a large amount of new technology. But is that really true today, now that we are just applying tried and true principles? I haven't heard of a single invention that came out of the ISS which has made it's way into the civilian marketplace.

Furthermore, if building anything high tech will result in new tech, then doesn't it make sense to choose goals that are useful and worthwhile by themselves, over something that is a waste of money - we are getting the same indirect return either way.

Re:Is it really? (1)

cjonslashdot (904508) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095890)

I agree with you. I think that the space station was essentially a program championed by the aerospace contractors to keep the gravy train rolling after the Apollo program was canceled. The ISS was a huge waste of money. Big, inefficient projects to create things that had already been invented during Apollo. The Space Shuttle was a similar waste of money.

Instead of spending money on these mundane things, NASA should have been pushing the envelope in new propulsion systems. Yet, almost all of that research got canceled during the 70s. Now it is reviving, after we have lost 40 years.

ISS expiration date? (2, Insightful)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095234)

"I think those who are naysayers haven't given us a chance -- haven't given us enough time to show what we can do."

Wasn't the ISS built with an expiration date approaching ... about now?

Re:ISS expiration date? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095292)

Last I'd heard, that was being extended. Or at least that was being seriously considered. Sorry, no source.

Re:ISS expiration date? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095298)

No, but your mom was designed with an expiration. Her puss is way past due..

The smell....It burns!

Re:ISS expiration date? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095490)

It also was planned to be finished much earlier, so that actual research would not have had to wait that long. Well, if they had known in advance about their Space Shuttle problems ...

Unique science is often worth it (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095254)

The potential value to science can be found where else?

If we are comparing similar projects the price tag becomes a useful thing. Unique projects are harder to judge. Is it worth more than a fraction of the gulf war(s)?
It's not worth more than the cost of cleaning up government but then I don't thing that's on the table.

What about the LHC (1)

huzur79 (1441705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095256)

Is the Large Hadron Collider valued at 9 Billion dollars worth it for smashing tiny particles up once in a while when its actually working? While the science on the ISS is qustionable, what isn't in question is the team work it took to build it and put it in orbit. Russa, Canada, Japan, US, Europe. I mean there is some value in being able to do it, and doing it together as a unified human race. Costly yes, worth it, I think so. After all the Iraq war was what 500 billion dollars?

Important engineering lessons (5, Insightful)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095260)

Scientific research is just gravy. The biggest benefit of the ISS is it teaches us how to operate indefinitely in space. All the little unexpected things that went wrong and had to be solved, was an important lesson learned. They all might seem trivial, but if we ever want to do more than hang around in low-earth orbit, these are all important lessons to learn. And they can only be learned through experience.

When you're half way to mars, a malfunctioning toilet would be a shitty way to die.

Re:Important engineering lessons (0, Troll)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095296)

Ugh, were important lessons learned.

Re:Important engineering lessons (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095592)

Wow, the grammar self-police. ;)

Re:Important engineering lessons (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095382)

But it didn't raise our stock this quarter! Fire that man and cancel everything he did!

Re:Important engineering lessons (5, Funny)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095454)

When you're half way to mars, a malfunctioning toilet would be a shitty way to die.

I see what you did there.

Re:Important engineering lessons (3, Insightful)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095556)

Not to rain on this parade, but Russia figured most of these lessons out a long time ago with the Mir/Soyuz. Even now, the person who spent the longest continuous period in space did it on Mir, not the ISS. And even the US figured out a good number of these lessons with Spacelab. The ISS doesn't provide any really new experience in long term space survival, though it does provide some engineering challenges that Mir did not. And besides, neither the Mir nor ISS are close to operating indefinitely. Both needed regular resupply from Earth (the ISS, in particular). And for all the patriotic rhetoric in the US, the USSR had arguably the better and more successful space program and did it at lower cost per mission (and probably lower regard for human life). Didn't get to the moon, of course, but much more successful at space stations and getting to LEO.

Re:Important engineering lessons (1)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095894)

While the ISS has only served to continue early work on extended duration spaceflight as far as it being a space station, two things stand out as new with the ISS:

1. Effective, large scale international cooperation.
2. Large scale, in-space construction.

In learning how to truly expand beyond Earth, these are important lessons. Add to this the lessons of everything that went wrong, particularly a dependence on a single launch vehicle for many components, and there is much to be gained from the experience. You might say that you have to do it wrong before you know how to do it right.

Whether it was worth the cost is another question -- but now that its done we should learn everything we can from it.

Re:Important engineering lessons (1)

hweimer (709734) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095722)

When you're half way to mars, a malfunctioning toilet would be a shitty way to die.

Oblig Race into Space [raceintospace.org] quote: "FOOD AND WASTE PROBLEM, CONTAINMENT BACKFLOW, QUITE MESSY. MISSION IS SCRUBBED."

Fund Me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095270)

Fund me instead!

Basic science is fine but... (-1, Flamebait)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095276)

At some point, NASA had better pay for itself. Had NASA done something like say, a space-based power system, or a reversible global warming regulator system, or set up a free satellite internet system, would there be *any* debate about keeping it going?

Going to the Moon or Mars is awesome. Awesome doesn't pay the bills. Awesomeness is the reasoning of an adolescent. It's way past time for NASA to grow up.

Re:Basic science is fine but... (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095384)

NASA's work in creating orbital systems has easily paid for itself, including the showboating projects like going to the moon. Imagine a world without satellite communications, GPS, weather satellites, or remote sensing.

All of that is an accidental outgrowth of the dream of human space exploration. The problem is that now we're on the threshold of serious exploration of the Solar System, and its hard to imagine gains made outside Earth's orbit paying for anything in an economic sense.

Re:Basic science is fine but... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095554)

All of that is an accidental outgrowth of the dream of human space exploration.
Fooey. All that is an intentional outgrowth of a policy of competing militarily with the Soviet Union while scoring political points at home. Space was our next battleground.

The technology migrated to the public sector as military technology is wont to do. There's no reason that investments in something a bit more practical, which would also yield more new technology.

And no, we're not on the verge of serious exploration of the solar system. It still costs too much. We may send more unmanned probes out, but I'll be we're not sending humans anywhere until we get something a little more sophisticated than rockets.

we need bigger space stations (5, Interesting)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095286)

So we can build more things in space. What would happen if we were to build a foundry in space? Could we build new metals? Would they be stronger? Would they be applicable to more uses? What about making CPUs in space? Could we build a system that would align the materials better in space?

Yes I am dreaming here. If we could safely work with liquid materials (metals, silicon, etc.) in space, we might be able to build better things.

Re:we need bigger space stations (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095692)

"What would happen if we were to build a foundry in space?"

Nothing, it's not possible. The gravity and inertia on Earth allow us to do things like pour liquids from one vessel to another. You'd have to reinvent every single process to do it in space. Why?

"Could we build new metals?"

Build? What are you talking about? Do you see the chemical table of elements? Do you think we missed some?

"Would they be stronger?"

Uh, no? They'd be the same, and for the differential in cost, you can just make more on Earth and test for the stronger one. I think you don't understand the complexity of even industrial processes on Earth.

"Would they be applicable to more uses? What about making CPUs in space? Could we build a system that would align the materials better in space?"

You're ill-informed. Even we could make CPUs in space (takle a look a how large a modern foundry is), who could afford them?

Space is a dead end. Face it.

The ISS Will Return The Investment IF (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095302)

N.A.S.A. avoids doing business with the fly-by-night SUB-ORBITAL launch companies ( ie. Scaled Composites. SpaceX et al.) and
decides to lift real industrial payloads with Energia [energia.ru] .

Yours In Baikonur,
Kilgore Trout

It's fun! (5, Insightful)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095336)

I thought people fly in rockets and visit space stations and the moon because it's cool. I don't care if no scientific progress comes out of it - I like space travel because it's awesome. Similarily, I'm not attracted to science, mathematics or technology for their practical uses, but because it's fun understanding how the world works, being able to calculate things and think up and admire cool (preferably huge) machines.

Same old: (3, Insightful)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095352)

Here. Let me translate:

"They've paid 100 Billion. Think how much more they would have gotten if they'd granted that to my field."

I'm sure it is everywhere, but I've seen this personally in biochemistry, solid state physics, and particle physics.

My original advisor in grad school was literally jumping for joy when the SSC was cancelled. He didn't like it when I pointed out that none of that money would be going to grants he was involved in and would in large part go back to the general US budget.

Prototype (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095450)

Has ANY prototype, in the history of industrial manufacture, been, in and of itself, worth what it cost to make?

Space travel (c'mon already!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095458)

Meh. The real breakthroughs that I'm looking for will result from mastering quantum physics. No, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. But this is Slashdot. Quantum physics is where we'll find the science to harness energies, or master tricks, to enable long distance space travel. I'm just convinced that there is no way we're here in this universe with no practical way to travel through space. I just can't imagine a system would be setup where we couldn't practically travel to other stars, and galaxies. And want folks to hurry up already. (My) time is running out.

The alternative (3, Insightful)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095460)

The alternative is not 100 billion dollars for a war. The alternative could have been 100 billion dollars on general science spending. That's 11 LHCs of science or 10,000 individual X prices of engineering. I'm not in a position to evaluate that against the current space program, but that's a lot of pay off to compete with.

It's a space station (4, Insightful)

Mantrid42 (972953) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095462)

It's a space station. We're not getting enough science out of our space station?!

It's a station. In space. Right now, we have humans off-world. Think about that for a moment. Surely these are important fields to develop if we want to survive as a species long-term.

The ISS is a dead-end (1, Insightful)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095504)

Just imagine for a moment that there was an international PRIVATE consortium with the aim of building a space station and that they had a budget of $100 billion... The Airbus A380 cost $11 billion over five years to create. The Chinese Three Gorges Dam cost ~$25 billion....

The ISS has been a colossal WASTE of money. Speaking as a contractor who regularly works for the great US Government, if you want to deliver projects on a budget, don't let the government near it!

I watch 2001 every year on TV and it brings a tear to my eye at how the future that could have been, never was....well, just a bit behind schedule at any rate...

Re:The ISS is a dead-end (1)

Dimwit (36756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095574)

Right. And how much money did Airbus save by not having to research everything that they learned by being a contractor on the ISS? How much money did Airbus save by having all of the research NASA has done over the decades be in the public domain?

It's like people saying that SpaceShipOne cost one one-thousandth or whatever of one of the Apollo missions. It's very easy to cost a lot less when 90% of the research has been done for you by NASA and placed in the public domain.

Re:The ISS is a dead-end (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095748)

Well, until you can show me a private consortium willing to spend $100 Billion on a space station, I guess we'll just have to settle for governments doing most of the space exploration and developing all of the technologies with uncertain financial returns.

Are you implying that our spaceflight technology would be ahead of where it is now if NASA didn't exist? Some of the private companies building rockets and such today are doing cool stuff, no doubt, but they haven't even put a person into orbit yet, even though they have access to large amounts of knowledge generated via government spaceflight projects.

Worth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095518)

What is "worth"?

How much money you've sunk into something isn't worth.

What would it cost to replace all of the current assets of the project if they disappeared? That's nearer to the neighborhood of worth.

Another measure: how much would the highest bidder pay for it?

Honest worth can never be separated very far from fair market value.

I feel cheated by this thing. (2, Interesting)

SloWave (52801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095566)

I remember when they shut down the Apollo program to do this thing it was suppose to be a permanent hopping off point in space to get us out to the other planets and beyond. They never told us it was just going to go around circles just outside the atmosphere and let astronauts perform little science fair experiments and do little else. Basically, I believe now the space station and the space shuttle were just welfare programs for aerospace companies. Now NASA wants to crash it back to earth and loose everything. I don't blame Russia and the other countries wanting to detach their modules and taking them to play elsewhere. If NASA really wants to salvage the space station project, they need to push it to a higher, more useful orbit, and start building some real interplanetary manned (and unmanned) spaceships out there.

Child support? (3, Insightful)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095572)

Same goes for so many things. Part of the taxes I pay go to child support for dysfunctional families with a father in prison and so on.
Most of those children will vote for people and have ideas that I don't like, yet still my money goes there...
Where's my return of investment here?

ISS benefit (1)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095582)

Probably the biggest benefit of the ISS is the ability to be a stopping point for manned travel to other moons/planets.

Working together (4, Insightful)

Sean_Inconsequential (1883900) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095612)

I would say the biggest thing we should take from the ISS is that it got several countries to work together toward a common goal. Certainly there were disagreements along the way, and that is to be expected. The main countries involved had plans for their individual space stations though none could afford them. Let's be honest, it is likely that will be the only way we get to Mars and beyond, several countries working together to get there.

Positive Externalities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095616)

One thing that always gets my blood boiling reading these articles about how space programs are a waste is the complete ignorance of all the stuff that the space program has brought us.

http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/11/is-space-exploration-worth-the-cost-a-freakonomics-quorum/

There's dozens more like these. Essentially, you can point to the fact that for every dollar we spend on the space program, the US economy is boosted by many times that amount. The above two papers cite $7 and $8 dollars as the figure, but don't have a source to point to- but depending on the study, I've heard the figure as high as $15. I would posit that very few federally funded programs can boast such a return on investment.

For the cost of one ISS ($100B) (3, Insightful)

Snufu (1049644) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095688)

we could have sent up thirty Hubble telescopes ($5B).

Just sayin'.

Re:For the cost of one ISS ($100B) (1)

Snufu (1049644) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095746)

(edit: The $5B estimate for the Hubble includes multiple cost overruns due to it being a first iteration. Subsequent iterations would likely be cheaper, hence my guesstimate of one ISS ~ 30 Hubbles.)

Re:For the cost of one ISS ($100B) (1)

skywatcher2501 (1608209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095782)

100 / 5 = 30 for values of 5 extremely close to 10/3?

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095696)

:)

Not worth the price... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34095726)

... considering you can install some LAMP boxes for free.

Wait, the ISS?

100 Billion? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095728)

100 Billion? Is that all it cost? With a population of just over 300 million, that means it cost us less than $350 per person over 10 years? I would have to give a resounding yes. ~$35 a year per person is a bargain.

I have a crazy idea. Lets make a space tax. 1% of any revenue generated directly from space goes to new space research. So, any telephone plan that uses satellites, television programming that uses satellites, satellite photos that use satellites, all get taxed at 1% to further the industry. Obviously any services that are consumed in space would be exempt.

Circle of Grant Money (3, Insightful)

Anomalyx (1731404) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095794)

I think those who are naysayers haven't given us a chance — haven't given us enough time to show what we can do.

I'm 100% sure that in another 10 years, when we still haven't seen anything of value come from the ISS, they'll say the same thing. It's a convincing argument, until someone realizes that it follows horrible logic. Basically they want us to fund them until they find something, then fund them some more. There's nothing that says anything interesting will ever come out of it. I'm not saying they shouldn't do research, I'm just saying I don't want that much money coming out of my (taxpayer) pocket.

Invalid question (1)

Enry (630) | more than 3 years ago | (#34095868)

It's an invalid question for two reasons:

1) It's teaching us about how to live, build, and work long term in space. We need that knowledge to go to the moon and mars.

2) You can't put a price tag on basic research. There's no guarantee that you'll find what you're looking for, or if you'll find what you're looking for, or if you find something completely different. Any of those answers could be worth nothing, it could be worth new industries, it could be life saving. There's no way of telling until you've spent the time and money on it.

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