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International Space Station Mission Extended To 2024

Unknown Lamer posted about 8 months ago | from the and-hopefully-longer dept.

ISS 104

An anonymous reader writes with news that funding has been secured for the ISS through at least 2024. From NASA: "'...We are pleased to announce that the Obama Administration has approved an extension of the International Space Station until at least 2024. We are hopeful and optimistic that our ISS partners will join this extension effort and thus enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory for at least another decade. ... A further benefit of ISS extension is it will give NASA and its private-sector partners time to more fully transition to the commercial space industry the transportation of cargo and crew to low-Earth-orbit, allowing NASA to continue to increase its focus on developing the next-generation heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule necessary for deep-space exploration."

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Yes! (1)

zixxt (1547061) | about 8 months ago | (#45906163)

Yes! Thats All.

Re:Yes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906293)

Let's celebrate! [youtube.com]

Re:Yes! (0)

P-niiice (1703362) | about 8 months ago | (#45906307)

Surprised he didn't privatize it.

Re:Yes! (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 8 months ago | (#45906559)

Obama, privatize it? It will be President Paul who will sell the ISS to Bezos-Chang Enterprises, which will refurb it to ferry crews to Mars.

Re:Yes! (2)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | about 8 months ago | (#45907701)

RAND Paul for president!? LMFAO

Re:Yes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906547)

You Americans had no viable alternative , excluding the future potential of Spacex et al you have currently become an also ran in the space business

Re:Yes! (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 8 months ago | (#45906647)

Good news for the Russian Space Agency. They get to ferry Americans up to space for at least another 10 years.

Re:Yes! (2)

Teancum (67324) | about 8 months ago | (#45906883)

Good news for the Russian Space Agency. They get to ferry Americans up to space for at least another 10 years.

I wouldn't be so quick [wikipedia.org] to make that assumption [wikipedia.org] . There are certainly other vehicles [wikipedia.org] which can take people to the ISS besides the Soyuz spacecraft, and one of which will be flying within the decade. I would even suggest all three will be flying routinely.

Thanks Obama (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906171)

Thanks, indeed.

Re:Thanks Obama (-1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 8 months ago | (#45906709)

Yeah, it's a proud moment. Not since NASA astronauts landed on the moon has the agency stood so tall as to get a 10-year extension on a LEO tin can that we can't even get to without a Russian rocket. USA! USA! USA!

If you like your space station you can keep... (2, Funny)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 8 months ago | (#45906189)

"If you like your space station you can keep your space station."

Let's hope Obama wasn't kidding this time.

Thanks Big O! (5, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | about 8 months ago | (#45906219)

Thanks for spending my money on something I actually can get behind instead of just spending it on tracking my phone calls, funding terrorist organizations and god knows what else.

Maybe you can keep this up and we can have a real science budget in the USA.

Re:Thanks Big O! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906663)

This is not real science; it is just pork for NASA/Houston. The real science in space is happening at NASA/JPL with their robotic missions such as Curiosity And the O'Admin is trying to kill off all the other planetary missions.

Re:Thanks Big O! (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#45906899)

I have a serious question – what science is the ISS doing that can be done better with humans and not by remotely? Grew up in Houston, big Sci-Fi fan, love science. It seems to me that the ISS is a highly capable piece of equipment in search of a mission.

Most of the science that I hear about is about studying the effect of long term space flight so we can go to the Moon, Mars, etc. Which would be all fine and dandy if there were a real program to go to the Moon, Mars, etc.

Where should I be looking?

Re:Thanks Big O! (1)

east coast (590680) | about 8 months ago | (#45907009)

There are articles on Slashdot on pretty much a monthly basis about various entities working their way to a Mars mission. Sorry that no one is just throwing a set of engines on the ISS and pushing it off towards Mars but that's the nature of humans in space in the current era.

My guess it'll be at least another two decades until Mars has a serious manned mission attempt. Even when W was in office their best guess at getting people back to the moon was something like 2018 and that's when going back to the moon was the primary goal of human space flight.

Get your presidents to stop dickering in NASA missions and maybe these programs would come to fruition in a more timely fashion. Until then don't blame NASA and don't blame the science.

Re:Thanks Big O! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45907835)

It will take longer than two US presidential terms to get a successful Mars mission from preliminary design to flags&footprints, therefore the US ain't going to do it unless we start up a sequel to the Cold War or something.

Re:Thanks Big O! (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 8 months ago | (#45907221)

Most of the science that I hear about is about studying the effect of long term space flight so we can go to the Moon, Mars, etc.

... and even those studies are just a rehash of what was done on Mir and Skylab decades ago.

Re:Thanks Big O! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45907331)

Here, read this book for some idea of the science that requires humans: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AR2BCLW?ie=UTF8&camp=213733&creative=393177&creativeASIN=B00AR2BCLW&linkCode=shr&tag=tkqoezjfe05-20

The short explanation is, we need to study the effects of humans in space for longer durations in order to help plan eventual trips out of our local Earth-Moon system. Part of that is the effects of space on humans, part of that is the equipment used to live in space and to support the human (including things like mean time to failure in the field, repairability, etc), how humans interact with this equipment (design), things like how best to grow plants in space (efficiency testing, avoid mineralized water droplets in the air filters, which plants work best, etc), human to human interaction in both the confined spaces of the station, but also with the stresses of being beyond immediate help - you know, deep down, that if something happens, you can very likely be toast. You can't get that in a module at the bottom of a pool, there you know, psychologically, that there is someone who can save you within 5 minutes if the shit hits the fan.

The space station is a huge "humans in space" technological, botanical, scientific, sociological and psychological testbed. That is the science that we cannot get from automated tests on a probe, and we need that science if we are ever to leave this rock for more than a few weeks.

Re:Thanks Big O! (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#45907837)

You see that does not cut it for me.

Take a look at the space program between JFK announcement that we were going to the moon to landing on the moon. There was a clear goal. Each step of the program was a clear, logical, step to expand our abilities to meet that goal. An excellent example of project management.

You can’t say that about the ISS. Is what they are doing helping us to Mars or a asteroid? Maybe yes, maybe no – one can’t tell until you have set the goal. For example, if we just wanted to do a flyby of Mars with humans (IIRC there is a great window coming up to do just that) we have the science (biological, et. al.) to do that. Now, it seems rudderless. It would be a whole another story If we had a concert goal to go to Mars, which I would support.

FYI, I have read and enjoyed Mary Roach’s book but have not read this one.

Re:Thanks Big O! (2)

Stuntmonkey (557875) | about 8 months ago | (#45910327)

Is what they are doing helping us to Mars or a asteroid?

My assessment is: Not really.

There is a very exciting goal in human spaceflight: Long-term habitation outside of Earth's biosphere. I think this is what everybody gets excited about when they think of humans in space. And there are good practical reasons to build off-world colonies, in terms of resource utilization and species risk.

This is an enormously difficult goal, because humans are fragile and it's hard to support our needs in a completely self-contained way. If our Mars colony requires supply ships from Earth to maintain, we haven't done anything to mitigate species risk. And it will elevate the ongoing costs so much as to make it economically untenable. We need self-sustainability if we're to scale to the thousands, or millions, of off-world inhabitants we need to be a truly multi-planet species. Basic economics are important.

If self-contained colonies are the real goal -- and I believe they are -- then logically our R&D should go into solving the major blockers to that outcome. The first thing to realize is that spaceflight is NOT one of those blockers. Since Apollo we've had the engineering know-how to safely transport humans to the surface of Mars. We've lacked the political will to fund it, but that's a different matter. All the fundamental technologies are in hand.

The real engineering blocker is how do we survive long-term once we get there? How do we extract resources from Mars, how do we recycle our wastes, how do we grow food, how do we synthesize what we can't find? These are problems that don't have anything to do with spaceflight. Most, or all, of this is development can happen on the ground. NASA provides very little funding for this type of work. Perhaps they have looked at it and concluded the problems are too difficult to tackle in our present state of knowledge.

So post-Apollo we've been in this odd situation: People support manned spaceflight because they think it's getting us closer to off-world colonies. But NASA's activities are not actually oriented toward achieving that goal.

Re:Thanks Big O! (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#45907873)

Re:Thanks Big O! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45908713)

You've got to love it when someone manages to come up with the perfect combination of label & acronym for a project/equipment:

General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerator (GLACIER)

I wonder how long it took to come up with that?

Re: Thanks Big O! (1)

Adriax (746043) | about 8 months ago | (#45910399)

Guessing they've got a dedicated acronym guy as part of the PR department.
Tell a congressman you're sending a refrigerator into space and they think they know as much about it as you do, and therefor why should it cost more than $299 at sears? Instant budget cut.

Re:Thanks Big O! (1)

Dishwasha (125561) | about 8 months ago | (#45909161)

NASA has determined that research on ISS is necessary to mitigate fully 21 of the 32 human-health risks anticipated on long-duration missions.

It helps when you RTFA.

Re:Thanks Big O! (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 8 months ago | (#45913635)

I think that part of the benefit is having experience living in space, and dealing with the technical and psychological issues of a long term presence in space. A bonus seems to be that the shuttle being canceled seems to have given a boost to private spacebound freight transport. All of this is valuable experience for other projects, be they other near-earth habitats or travel to other planets or the asteroids.

Re:Thanks Big O! (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#45907857)

This is not real science; it is just pork for NASA/Houston. The real science in space is happening at NASA/JPL with their robotic missions such as Curiosity And the O'Admin is trying to kill off all the other planetary missions.

Yes. Curiosity has been playing in the dirt on Mars for two years now. Please do tell what ground breaking "real science" has been done.

Meanwhile the ISS has been used to grow protein crystals [nasa.gov] which have helped our understanding of Duchenne's muscular dystrophy. This type of research will be helpful for stroke prevention and cancer as well as treatment for emphysema and immune system disorders.

The Materials Science Lab [wikipedia.org] is giving us insights into making better alloys here on earth. There are other experiments going on regarding fluid dynamics and research that helps us better understand superconductors, Additionally there are experiments that we hope will give us a better understanding of combustion to help with efficiencies here on earth.

Astronaut Donald Pettit [wikipedia.org] is known for his own private experiments during his down time. I believe he used cracker crumbs to show how particles tend to clump in microgravity. Prior to this there was no definitive proof about how particles would behave in this environment.

Curiosity is doing some very cool stuff, but please don't' act like the robotics division of NASA is the only one doing "real science". Much of the work on the ISS will have a real impact on our life here on earth. While the various probes we send out will give us a better understanding of the universe around us. See the difference? They are complimentary, not competitive.

Re:Thanks Big O! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45908307)

All the stuff could be done for a fraction of the cost with robotic probes in orbit. The ISS and manned spaceflight is pork for Houston. The ground breaking science is being done with robotic probes from NASL/JPL, not NASA/Houston/. Unfortunately NASA is run by ex-pilots from Houston who think Star Trek was a documentary; they are forever poaching funds from JPL's planetary missions. This is why Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray started the Planetary Society; to stop the siphoning to the manned mission that were always busting their budgets. Now it is worse than ever.

Curiosity has just started its mission and has not yet reached its destination, but it already has found clays and proof of running streams on Mars. It has also dispelled the Mars Methane theory or severely constrained it. It has also done some important isotope studies that reflect climate change on Mars.

There a lot of other current and past robotic probes that have done far more sciences than manned missions ever will at a fraction of the cost and without killing astronauts. Voyager for instance. More recently, the Kepler probed has discovered a large number of planets orbiting other stars. But that is just a small sample.

Re:Thanks Big O! (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 8 months ago | (#45910213)

All the stuff could be done for a fraction of the cost with robotic probes in orbit. The ISS and manned spaceflight is pork for Houston.

I would say this is utter bullshit.

Yes, there can be some interesting things done with robotic probes, and it is possible that some of the experiments done on the ISS could be operated remotely and doesn't need constant attention by astronauts (like many of the experiments on the ISS do anyway). Still, I think you take for granted how difficult it is to build a spacecraft designed to meet a specific research objective and also dismiss out of hand what value there is to having astronauts being there with the experiment to get them in working order or to troubleshoot the experiments while they are in orbit. Better yet, you are similarly dismissing observations that can be done by somebody in space that may not be readily apparent remotely.

If you want to go into the manned vs. robotic missions feud, you are really being incredibly stupid and short sighted. Both are needed and both deserve funding. I think Carl Sagan (the guy who introduced this meme) did the whole world a massive disservice by introducing this concept, as he was flat out wrong too. Harrison Schmit performed far more science by his trip to the Moon than all of the robotic geology missions combined and discovered samples that would have literally been impossible to obtain without sending an experienced geologist to the Moon. When asked if he could use some astronauts, the lead researcher for the Mars Science Lab (aka Curiosity) said absolutely it would help.

I'll admit there is some low hanging fruit still left that can be collected by robotic probes, and don't make it seem that I think these robotic missions need to end. Far from it, as they are certainly useful, but sending people into space to perform research is also important. That isn't even touching on the fact that without a manned spaceflight program it is remotely possible that all robotic missions would be cut too, thus their funding depends on continued manned exploration.

If you want somebody or something to blame for the current woes of the robotic missions, blame the James West Space Telescope instead. That is a fiscal black hole that is sucking up nearly the entire robotic exploration budget, and I still have my doubts it will even fly. It isn't even a proper replacement of the Hubble telescope. For the money being dumped into that vehicle, literally a thousand Arkyd 100 [planetaryresources.com] telescopes could be purchased by a company more than willing to sell them in that quantity. That would include launch costs for that thousand telescopes too. More to the ponit, don't blame the manned spaceflight program for the problems of massive mismanagement of the robotic missions.

Re:Thanks Big O! (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#45911217)

All the stuff could be done for a fraction of the cost with robotic probes in orbit.

[citation needed]

There is no all purpose robot that I am aware of that is flexible enough to be able to replace the general purpose abilities of a human. There is R&D cost involved in building these robots. It's not as simple as going down to "Space Robots 'R' Us" and charging it to your credit card. Mars Curiosity cost $2.5 billion. [nasa.gov]

The space shuttle [wikipedia.org] (which was a terribly expensive program compared to what it should have been) ran from 1972 until 2011 at a total cost of $450 billion or a little over $11.5 billion per year, or with 135 missions it cost $3.3 billion per launch. Since the shuttle is no longer in operation, US astronauts cost $71 million per seat to go the the ISS, [cnsnews.com] which is up from the $22 million per seat from back in 2006. So getting there is pretty damn cheap. It's hard to say how much the ISS cost overall, but at the current plans, it will cost $2.3 billion per year, including the $71 million cost per seat to get there. regardless the biggest expense has already taken care of, so it would be pretty damn stupid to abandon it now.

Unfortunately NASA is run by ex-pilots from Houston who think Star Trek was a documentary; they are forever poaching funds from JPL's planetary missions. This is why Carl Sagan and Bruce Murray started the Planetary Society; to stop the siphoning to the manned mission that were always busting their budgets. Now it is worse than ever.

We need both manned and unmanned programs.Eventually we will need to either develop near light-speed travel, spacial warping, etc. or know for sure that it's simply not possible. Either way, there is no reason to think we won't continue to make new discoveries and develop new technologies that will be useful to us in everyday life as we've seen from past manned space flight. There is a bunch of spinoff tech [nasa.gov] that has come from both the manned and unmanned programs.

Curiosity has just started its mission and has not yet reached its destination, but it already has found clays and proof of running streams on Mars. It has also dispelled the Mars Methane theory or severely constrained it. It has also done some important isotope studies that reflect climate change on Mars.

What destination? Mars? It didn't "just start" its mission. Curiosity was designed for a two year mission. It landed on Mars in August of 2012, so it has completed 17 months of it's original 24 month mission. However it was recently extended indefinitely. Every mission we send to Mars shows more evidence that supports there was once water on Mars surface. But I wasn't aware that Curiosity had single-handedly proven it beyond any doubt. A major part of its mission is also to determine "planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration." [wikipedia.org]

There a lot of other current and past robotic probes that have done far more sciences than manned missions ever will at a fraction of the cost and without killing astronauts. Voyager for instance. More recently, the Kepler probed has discovered a large number of planets orbiting other stars. But that is just a small sample.

They are different types of research. Obviously sending a person up to look through Hubble would be stupid. But discoveries like some of what Donald Pettit did, would not have happened with robots.It's interesting that you mention Kepler. Its mission it to find Earth like planets in habitable distances from their sun. Why do you think that is? Obviously the hope is to one day visit them if it's physically possible to travel those distances. Don't you think we should start working on those problems? It will lead to all kinds of new discoveries you know. Or were your ancestors the ones who felt that building a house was a wast of time when there was a perfectly good cave to live in?

Re:Thanks Big O! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906881)

Except, what is to stop the next person in office from changing the deal?

Re:Thanks Big O! (1)

east coast (590680) | about 8 months ago | (#45906959)

Probably nothing. That is one of the downsides of the whole NASA deal is that pretty much each administration redefines NASA's mission and we lose tons of R&D in the process. Not to say that it's all a waste but I would be happier seeing presidents not treat NASA like their statement on how scientific they want their legacy to be seen.

Re:Thanks Big O! (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | about 8 months ago | (#45908113)

I agree on this topic

An intangible benefit is it has the potential to produce something like this which will make a young kid say "WOW" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo [youtube.com]

Getting the next generation interested in space is something that I see as nothing but a positive

Re:Thanks Big O! (1)

AndrewBuck (1120597) | about 8 months ago | (#45910255)

I was going to post exactly this comment. A single video like that could be (indirectly) responsible for countless discoveries made down the line by the next generation of kids who get interested in science because space is awesome.

-AndrewBuck

Waldo (1)

lazarus (2879) | about 8 months ago | (#45906269)

Too bad, I was hoping to buy it and become Waldo [wikipedia.org] .

On a more serious note, I don't see the ISS as a single "thing" that can/should be abandoned or destroyed. It is a collaborative effort of many people and many nations and is designed to be built upon and "developed". Like a new community. I'm hoping that we as a species find the right combination of profitability and marketability from it to ensure it is still in the sky long after I'm dead and buried. Perhaps we should start thinking of it as more of a "place" than a "thing".

Re: Waldo (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#45906339)

The problem with that is that space is a bitch of an environment to maintain something as complex as the ISS over time. Unless you're only looking at another decade or two of life, you'll probably see it reach the point where it's cheaper and easier to build a new space station, moonbase or Mars base than it is to continue maintaining the ISS. There's also few practical options for preserving it as a piece of history, no matter how cool that would be.

Re: Waldo (1)

alex67500 (1609333) | about 8 months ago | (#45906491)

Having a moonbase is so much cooler than the ISS that I could live with that. Otherwise I'm 100% with lazarus, don't let it die!

Re: Waldo (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 8 months ago | (#45907041)

Yeah, a moon base is really cool... until an EXPLOSION sends it hurtling through SPACE.

Re: Waldo (1)

Buz53 (2828481) | about 8 months ago | (#45907909)

... until an EXPLOSION sends it hurtling through SPACE.

at which point we'll essentially just have a new (unintentional) version of the ISS anyway...so it's all good.

Re: Waldo (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 8 months ago | (#45906749)

Actually, the plan was to refurbish it over time by launching new modules and deorbiting ones that we do not want to maintain any more. That way you can slowly refresh the whole thing. In fact, the Russians already have a plan that uses parts of the ISS that they own as a basis for another totally Russian station more suited for servicing deep space craft and missions.

Re: Waldo (1)

Dishwasha (125561) | about 8 months ago | (#45909581)

The problem with that is that <insert market space> is a bitch of an environment to maintain something as complex as the <insert product> over time. Unless you're only looking at another <insert product development lifecycle> or two of life, you'll probably see it reach the point where it's cheaper and easier to build a new <insert product>, <insert product alternative> or <insert alternative to product alternative> than it is to continue maintaining the <insert product>. There's also few practical options for preserving it as a piece of history, no matter how cool that would be.

That's how I read your post.

Re:Waldo (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 8 months ago | (#45906341)

But if Waldo goes to the ISS, it will just become easier to find him [whereswaldo.com] !

Re:Waldo (1)

Zocalo (252965) | about 8 months ago | (#45906351)

It is a collaborative effort, and all this does is extend the US' funding for another four years, which I would imagine is a significant chunk of the total costs so this is indeed welcome news. However, the withdrawal of US funding might not actually mean the end of the ISS, it would just fall on the remaining four space programmes in the consortium to continue to support and fund it. One obvious way of doing that would be to bring on board additional partners, whether national space programmes like China (whose involvement in the ISS the US vetoed previously) and India, or even commercial endeavors like Space-X, Virgin Galactic and so on.

Re:Waldo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906435)

The US just needs to just sell its ownership share of the station to other governments (and maybe commercial ventures), and let them take it over. Maybe the Chinese would like to buy our part of it. They'd obviously do a much better job with it, since they actually have the ability to think about things more than 4 years ahead, unlike us. Otherwise, we all have to worry about them deorbiting the thing and sending into the atmosphere every 4 years because the US government would rather spend money on NSA spying, drone-bombing of women and children, and corporate handouts.

Re:Waldo (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#45906943)

Why would a commercial venture buy a chunk of the ISS? I have a hard time thinking anything commercial coming out of it. It is set up to do basic science.

Government is the customer. Yes, they can contract out to the private sector for things, such as ferrying stuff, but they are the ones ultimately footing the bill.

Re:Waldo (1)

Zocalo (252965) | about 8 months ago | (#45907147)

The Russians have sent tourists to the ISS, so why not Virgin Galactic? They could build and send up a habitation module for their tourists in return for allowing the regular crew to use it when they are not, perhaps with a guarantee that would be at least a given percentage of a year. Likewise, I suspect that there are plenty of commercial enterprises would love access to a true zero G lab, and not just those interested in space directly - pharma and metamaterials companies for instance - investing in the ISS in return for a certain amount of lab time, possibly even providing the lab, might be something they could get behind. There is a lot of commercial interest in space already, and it's growing all the time, so just because it hasn't been done yet doesn't mean it won't or shouldn't be.

Re:Waldo (1)

lobotomir (882610) | about 8 months ago | (#45907575)

Virgin Galactic's suborbital vehicle does not have the capabilities required to reach low Earth orbit, and this is not going to change anytime soon. They would need to charter Falcon rockets from SpaceX or something similar. On the other hand, it is interesting to speculate whether a true space tourism industry is possible. If prices for access to orbit were slashed tenfold, I suppose you could draw on a pool of thousands of clients.

Re:Waldo (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 8 months ago | (#45910355)

The Russians have sent tourists to the ISS, so why not Virgin Galactic?

The company to look at is Bigelow Aerospace [bigelowaerospace.com] . FYI, this company is partnering with Boeing to build a spacecraft [boeing.com] that will carry passengers at a fraction of the price that Space Adventures [spaceadventures.com] is currently charging for that opportunity.

As for a microgravity lab, note that NanoRacks [nanoracks.com] already provides this service. They are literally open to anybody willing to use their checkbook to purchase a flight spot. This is no longer the time for theoretical rants, but a time to act and do something as the opportunity is here. At best, all you can do now is to find cheaper ways to get these things to happen or simply take advantage of the opportunities that exist.

Re:Waldo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45907447)

They're already pre-selling seats on "orbital type" flights. Maybe the next step would be a 24 hour stop over at the ISS? I can imagine a lot of rich folks would pony up some serious cash for that.

Re:Waldo (2)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45906967)

It is a collaborative effort of many people and many nations

Yes, it's a collaborative international effort and three quarters of the budget has come from the US.

China... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906281)

... is going to be responsible for "deep-space exploration", not USA/EU.

Spend this money on science, not pork (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906285)

The Space Station is a huge pork barrel; it is a way for NASA/Houston to siphon funds that would better spent on real science. The billions wasted on this would be better spent on robotic missions to Europa and other icy moons plus a Mars Sample Return Mission. The Terrestrial Planet Finder mission would also be a much better use of the money. The real excitement and discovery is happening with robotic probes such as the MSL (Curiousity), not the manned pork.

Re:Spend this money on science, not pork (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 8 months ago | (#45906331)

Ah, yes, because the unmanned probes are doing such a great job on the experiments where humans are the test subjects. At least those probes, carrying a dozen experiments each, are getting a lot of science done. After all, the ISS crew isn't busy [wikipedia.org] or anything, right?

Re:Spend this money on science, not pork (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | about 8 months ago | (#45906621)

If it's between funding a thousand MSL-style probes and funding ISS, I'd vote for shutting down ISS. I was never a big fan, it sucks research cash but doesn't actually do much science. It's so bad, ISS people need to find people doing very stupid experiments on it when you can't get time on any of the scientific probes since they're so crowded with research. Just a comparison of the papers released from experiments from ISS vs experiments from any other probe (say, a fringe experiment) like Galex, I'm not even counting the papers from the real telescopes like Hubble show how useless IIS for science.

Even medical science... There's really not a lot of research coming out of it.

Re:Spend this money on science, not pork (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906895)

Busywork is mostly what they do. There are many, many valid criticisms of the value of the research one on the ISS. Most of the research doesn't even merit generation of scientific papers. The highest profile experiment they have on there, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), cost $1.5B (up from a proposed cost of $33M). It didn't even have the support of the cosmic ray community when it was proposed 20 years ago; the criticism then (and still valid today) was that it was an experiment that could be used as a justification for the existence of the ISS. If you look at the first paper from AMS, the entire acknowledgements section thanks all the people who were responsible for forcing the experiment onto the ISS, from NASA heads, Congressmen, University Presidents, etc.

Within the scientific community the ISS is seen as a potentially interesting platform, but very limiting and certainly not worth the $100B it cost. It is viewed as a pork barrel project that will not go away, which is fine, just as long as they don't rob real science budgets to pay for it, and most importantly, stop using science to justify the ISS existence.

Re:Spend this money on science, not pork (1)

tiberus (258517) | about 8 months ago | (#45906413)

So are you saying nothing of use/value has come out of the space program as a whole, or just from the space station itself? Here is just one short list [discovery.com] of the programs value. Okay, not all of it is that valuable.

It's due for its trillion mile check-up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906311)

It needs a new timing belt, oil change, and rotate the tires.

I hope they allocated money for that too.

DMV (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#45906363)

The Galactic DMV also requires a flasher fluid flush, a new windshield wiper belt, and a tachyon emissions filter for the flux capacitor before it passes inspection.

Keep your belts tightened, NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906335)

Should have said "Obama approves an extension to keep a fiscal albatross around NASA's neck." Even without looking at it from a cost/benefit analysis, as far as research goes, it is a useless platform for anything but investigating long-term effects of microgravity. Pretty much all the "groundbreaking" research presented in the past has been WAY overblown, or was research that could be done better on Earth.

You fool! Now we may never know if ants can be trained to sort tiny screws in space.

Re:Keep your belts tightened, NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906829)

Oh please, Obama's just making it so the actual decision can be made under somebody else's watch.

He already took the space shuttle hit, somebody else can shoulder this blame.

Pissed (1)

s122604 (1018036) | about 8 months ago | (#45906397)

Disappointed
I was looking forward to the Taco Bell promotions when this thing crashed back to earth

Title is misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906417)

Obama alone can not extend the ISS mission. The I is for International. Unless its international partners also agree, there won't be an extension.
Unlike what many 'muricans like to believe, the world events are not unilaterally decided by the US.

That being said, I would be happy if the ISS mission would really and indeed be extended. We should invest more into space and science than war&weapons.

Re:Title is misleading (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 8 months ago | (#45906553)

I agree that all participants have to say yes. But the Ruskies, Europeans and the 'Muricans are the three largest investors, and therefore it is a step in the right direction that Obama made the money available.

Re:Title is misleading (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 8 months ago | (#45906937)

Japan is somebody you shouldn't write off either. They did build the Kibo module [wikipedia.org] and have paid a substantial part of the costs involved too. If you would ask anybody involved, I would dare say that Japan is an equal partner in terms of decisions like this. The Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, is making plenty of progress on their own as well and certainly deserves to be recognized as a space faring nation, including having an astronaut corps of its own.

Facilitate Commercial Space Flight (1)

PerlPunk (548551) | about 8 months ago | (#45906457)

NASA should move into a role of supporting commercial space flight. Let players like SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace create the technologies needed. Let the lawyers figure out how to grant property rights on the Moon, Mars, etc. At this point, I'm inclined to view the ISS as a LEO flying turkey.

Re:Facilitate Commercial Space Flight (2)

organgtool (966989) | about 8 months ago | (#45907043)

That's an extremely one-sided view of scientific research. The private market only cares about discoveries that can be monetized within the next few years. Any big discoveries that would take too much time, money, or risk get thrown off the table. Those discoveries were usually funded by the government and led to such breakthroughs as going to the moon. At its peak, the U.S. used the combined might of our private AND public sectors to dominate nearly every corner of science and engineering. Now, many people such as yourself think that the road back to recovery with new big players in the game such as China can be handled single-handedly by the private sector. Well, you're getting your way as the U.S. is cutting back on government research in many different branches of science, and while that may line up with your political ideologies, I have a feeling that you, and the rest of our country, are not going to like the results.

What a waste $3B every year (0, Troll)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 8 months ago | (#45906475)

down the tubes.. or into the vacuum as the case may be. The ISS has no major accomplishments other than being a gravy train for aerospace contractors. Is there research going on up there that provides sufficient return to justify a cost of $8.2 million per day if it were not funded through tax dollars? Now that the station is being serviced commercially it is time to pull the plug. If IBM or Intel or Merck or Pfizer or whomever want a research lab in space let them form a consortium with Boeing et al and build one that suits their needs. And if they are really in love with the existing station, sell it to them and get some tax money back.

Re:What a waste $3B every year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906615)

That could fund a Europa Mission every year! Or a Mars Sample Return. Or the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

The Europa Clipper mission (2Billion) is on the chopping block, but this mission would accomplish soooo much more than the Pork Barrel in Space.

Re:What a waste $3B every year (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#45907163)

It's a commons. Like the National Parks service, it's something you run at a billions-of-dollars-a-year loss for in exchange for being able to have those things available as a shared good.

Re:What a waste $3B every year (1)

InfiniteLoopCounter (1355173) | about 8 months ago | (#45907617)

Another way to look at it is that it is only $3B dollars per year. For the USA this is pretty meagre spending really and entirely necessary. Many other spending initiatives such as seriously failed wars in the middle east that destabilize the whole region cost way more and don't endear the USA to the rest of the world. The ISS and similar things are necessary, because without them that country would be hated around the world for what it does in other areas and might come to bite it in times of local crisis (i.e. possibility of threats of economic sanctions such as when the Soviet Union collapsed in reverse). Plus you get science promoted in the media and access to space-based research.

Re:What a waste $3B every year (5, Insightful)

Princeofcups (150855) | about 8 months ago | (#45908077)

down the tubes.. or into the vacuum as the case may be. The ISS has no major accomplishments other than being a gravy train for aerospace contractors. Is there research going on up there that provides sufficient return to justify a cost of $8.2 million per day if it were not funded through tax dollars? Now that the station is being serviced commercially it is time to pull the plug. If IBM or Intel or Merck or Pfizer or whomever want a research lab in space let them form a consortium with Boeing et al and build one that suits their needs. And if they are really in love with the existing station, sell it to them and get some tax money back.

This is going to be inflammatory, but I have good karma to burn.

You sad sick fuck. The world is not beholden to the economic views of market capitalism. Science and knowledge expansion requires the expenditure of resources that are NOT tied up in making the elite more elite. It's your viewpoint that has destroyed what was once the greatest scientific community and left nothing but a corpse picked over by weasels and hyenas.

Re:What a waste $3B every year (1)

DarthVain (724186) | about 8 months ago | (#45909735)

This is the typical issue with those that purport that the free market solves everything people. A) it is simplification, and B) it isn't real.

For example, were do you think big pharma or Boeing would be without government contracts? Broke, and non-existent. What do you suppose ratio of business is for a company like Boeing between selling commercial items to other commercial entities, just like a good old free market is, to its business of selling military and other goods to various levels of government.

Anyway as an ideal, it is something, however in practice it doesn't really exist in any meaningful way, and exists only to help enrich a few while keeping the rest down. Which oddly enough everyone was talking about when the Soviet Union fell.

Things like regulation, particularly regulation that is paid for by commercial interests to give themselves an unfair advantage by lobbying government, or simply groups of large commercial interests cooperating together to game the system (monopolies, consortiums, associations, price fixing, etc...). Certain projects take National type funding, or they will not happen. Getting competing interests to somehow come together, to spend profits on something that may not turn into more profit in the next quarter is not happening.

Re:What a waste $3B every year (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 8 months ago | (#45913275)

No they would be a lot smaller and not relying on corpratism

Re:What a waste $3B every year (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#45912607)

You sad sick fuck. The world is not beholden to the economic views of market capitalism. Science and knowledge expansion requires the expenditure of resources that are NOT tied up in making the elite more elite. It's your viewpoint that has destroyed what was once the greatest scientific community and left nothing but a corpse picked over by weasels and hyenas.

Consider that the above complaint is made in the face of the greatest expenditures ever made [rdmag.com] on scientific research in the history of the world. If the "greatest scientific community" is being destroyed, then it must be by something other than mere economics.

I think Lawrence_Bird nailed the fundamental problem. Programs like the ISS aren't scientific programs but rather corrupt transfers of wealth to various elite which happen to do a minor bit of research. Too much research is not about producing something of value either for today or the distant future.

Re:What a waste $3B every year (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 8 months ago | (#45913261)

Please state the scientific accomplishments of the ISS. I get marked as troll yey it is you who offers nothing in rebuttal. Where are all the groundbreaking publications? Can you name one without a google search? Perhaps because there have not been any.

As to science funding in general again it is you who is the ignorant troll. Govt funding is at record highs. If anything has "destroyed" science is that it is now completely dependent on govt largess. In effect scientists are nth more than civil servants.

Re:What a waste $3B every year (1)

bmajik (96670) | about 8 months ago | (#45910083)

While I am broadly sympathetic with curtailing government spending and privatizing what is possible, I would like to make the following points

1) I'm going to guess that your assessment of ISS accomplishments is incorrect.

I'm going to channel Louis CK here a little but, basically, we have a _hotel in space_. People can live there and not die. That is _amazing_.

Instead of constantly pissing in their pants because there is no gravity, because cosmic and solar radiation are trying really hard to kill them, and because there is no native air, food, or water for over 100 miles, and your body has to explode and be burnt into nothingness if you want to go in that direction to get them -- these guys are up there laughing, doing flips and shit, and still getting work done.

That's awesome. How cynical are you, that we've got a floating laboratory orbiting the earth at one hojillion miles per hour, and you're like "meh. Not impressed".

What kind of awesome james bond shit is going on your life? Can you even hang drywall?

2) Ok. Lets say you're right. They're not doing anything new or awesome up there.

You overlook the value of what they are doing.

2a) the ISS allows the US to have meaningful scientific cooperation with Russia and the rest of Europe, both symbolically and pragmatically. This is a lot better than a hot war between these factions. What price do you put on symbolically maintaining good will?

2b) Even if you're right, and there is no new science nor engineering being done on the ISS, the current and future missions are still valuable.

It turns out, Space is Hard. The way you get good at it is with practice, and the way you stay good at it is with practice. You may have read, from time to time, claims that it would be difficult or impossible to recreate the Apollo program now because so much of the expertise and operational excellence of that era is now gone.

It is very easy to stop going to space. It is very hard to get back once you've stopped going.

I would characterize the spending level required for a manned space program something like the maintained dosage level vs. drug effect for many medications. Specifically, it takes much more of a drug to _start_ observing the desired effect (e.g. reduction in felt pain) than it does to maintain that effect once it has been achieved.

We're going to want to do manned space flight again some day. If we take what we know and stop doing it for 10 years, when we need to go back its going to cost more and take longer. We may not have that luxury.

2c) this relates to item 2b, but despite Kennedy's demand for the non-militarization of space, space is a military consideration.

If there must be a nation (and currently, we've got one), and it is going to do things it decides are in the public interest (like strategic defense, public education, or having a deep pipeline of basic research available royalty free) , it should seek to get a good return on investment from those activities.

We've established that manned space flight has both operational and technology advantages that are relevant for national defense, and the private economy at large. I think we get a good return on our $3B/year.

But lets cast a wider net.

Perhaps you've heard of the Halo Effect. GM builds a $100k car. Most GM customers don't buy the Corvette ZR1. But the ZR1 is a hell of a car; it is a masterpiece of engineering, styling, etc. It shows the world what GM is capable of. The thinking goes, Halo cars are effective products as a form of brand management, marketing, and advertising. It inspires people about what GM can do; it gets them thinking about GMs other products. Etc etc.

Is it possible that manned space programs have the same impact? And if so, on what group of people?

Perhaps manned space flight has an impact on kids?

The federal department of education budget is $32 billion a year.

Everyone agrees that there aren't enough Americans going into STEM careers in the US.

Many people agree that gifted students are underserved by the public school system, and aren't sufficiently inspired by it.

For $3b a year -- only 10% of the federal DOE budget -- every single kid in America (and the world, but especially America), can know that there is a space station up in the sky, with real American astronauts on it. They can talk to those astronauts via HAM radio; they can see pictures those astronauts take, watch youtube videos of their work, etc.

Do you want to make a wager on what kind of ROI we get for getting gifted kids to care about STEM when they get hooked on space, vs. whatever the hell else happens with the DOE budget (which is 10x larger) ?

My guess is that the ROI is pretty damn good.

In summary, while I want to get rid of as much government as is possible, manned space flight is one of the last places I put on my grumpy old man hat. For the forseeable future, we're going to have government, and its going to spend a of money. Let's at least keep the things that people like and are broad investments in multiple national priorities.

Re:What a waste $3B every year (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 8 months ago | (#45913313)

1-hotel skylab
2-cooperate on something with real results
Let the military do as they need
Business is good at finding solution$ for problems people want solved.govt is not

For what purpose (1)

Iridium_Hack (931607) | about 8 months ago | (#45906515)

So what do we really get out of the space station? Is it ever going to turn a profit? Has it ever helped produce anything?

I'm not trying to be critical. I've heard of things like experiments to see whether spiders can still spin webs in 0 G and whether the webs look different. But after many years of hearing about stuff like this, I've never heard a strong explanation put forward as to what is its real tangible benefit. If it is simply to work with other nations in a unique environment, call congress. I've heard they have some pretty unique and expensive parties. No doubt, there's a cynical meter reading very high right now. But I do know a number of the companies providing major support for the space station are well connected politically and get a lot of money for it.

So what to do? I don't know. If it is a waste of money, I don't think it is the worst the federal government has dreamed up. That's because it's a cool project. But me-thinks more could be accomplished for less money in private industry.

Re: For what purpose (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45906897)

ISS is a research platform for studying humans living in spacecraft environment and a training ground for wider industrialization of space. It is an investment in future economy.
If there was no ISS in LEO, private space industry would have no easy goals to meet. For instance, there would be no demand for cargo spaceships and they would have to build something much more complex and sensitive, like passenger carrying, or satellite-launching crafts as their first products. When they accumulate experience and know-how, the next thing will be for private entities to build a private LEO "space gas station", and governments' base should then move further on into an orbit which requires better radiation shielding and greater autonomy - i.e. solving hard problems of human interplanetary voyage without embarking on one. Then, private space industry will get a new homework, to extend supply routes to next frontier. Rinse, repeat ... until we can establish inter-orbital postal service between orbits of Earth, Moon, Mars, ...

Re:For what purpose (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#45907111)

What it's doing is unprofitable, but at least it's getting used. The DoD's spending on advanced weapon systems with no practical applications beyond fighting a land war with an inexplicably reassembled and equivalently armed USSR would probably pay for it several times over.

However it's not something private industry would get into, ever. "Less unprofitable" isn't a business model.

Re:For what purpose (1)

Iridium_Hack (931607) | about 8 months ago | (#45907175)

He! He! He! But my government project is less unprofitable that your government project.

Re:For what purpose (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#45907393)

I'm just saying that it's funny that human spaceflight gets as much heat as it does given that the DoD has the economic equivalent of a dozen Apollo programs gathering dust because they were built for a scenario that's never going to happen without a time machine and some sort of Robo Lenin.

Re:For what purpose (1)

Iridium_Hack (931607) | about 8 months ago | (#45907919)

Actually, I agree with you in principle 100%. Apollo was more fun, more cool and a lot less bloody than the stuff DOD works on. I wasn't making fun of your comment either. I just like your terminology, "less unprofitable." Double negatives are so much fun!

Re:For what purpose (3, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | about 8 months ago | (#45907123)

When does INL turn a profit? Los Alamos? Amundsen-Scott? Those are all major laboratories doing basic research. The ISS justifiably fits right in there with all of those facilities, and I"m glad that it is treated as such.

Part of the problem is that the ISS really is incomplete to be able to support the personnel needed to make it really thrive as a research lab. It was supposed to have a crew of six astronauts on board full-time (that was the original design) where two of those astronauts would deal with station keeping duties (at least trading off the equivalent of two astronauts doing that work) while the other four would be doing basic research.

That hasn't happened The TransHab module [wikipedia.org] in particular is needed to provide additional berthing arrangements (aka sleeping quarters) for the astronauts or at least another lab module that can expand the occupancy as well as one of the other partners (either ESA or NASA) needs to develop another spacecraft to bring astronauts up and down. NASA is working on that [wikipedia.org] so it is just a matter of time.

Regardless, the ISS is doing some tremendous work right now, and it is disingenuous to suggest that spider webs are the only thing being studied. The number of experiments numbers in the hundreds that have already been completed. You can debate the merit of that research based upon the funding being done, but far less has been done with far more money in other endeavors of government activity. The entire ISS program, including all shuttle launches and training and all of the maintenance costs, is still less than the amount of money spent on air conditioning equipment used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

As for private stations going into space and trying to duplicate the features of the ISS, I would bet that Robert Bigelow [bigelowaerospace.com] would be willing to help you out if you had a good idea and some funding sources to consider. I agree it would be done much cheaper by private industry, but it already is built... so do you really think it needs to be thrown away and splashed in the Pacific Ocean?

Re:For what purpose (1)

Iridium_Hack (931607) | about 8 months ago | (#45907839)

Good points. And I realize you may be aware of other experiments you believe are more useful than spiderweb studies, but there really isn't room to list them. One problem is few of these experiments receive much public coverage so people don't know about them. Couldn't NASA list the experiments, what they are trying to find out and if they have been successful? I've considered that there might be some 'National Security related' experiments they aren't going to report on. But I wouldn't think a spacelab labeled "International" would be doing that type of experiment exclusively. And the openness seems a responsibility since they are paid for (for the most part) by tax dollars. Photos and videos provided by Mars Rovers and Curiosity have helped the popularity and perceived profit of their respective programs.

To sum up, I see you feel the Space Station is profitable in ways not necessarily measured in money. OK, but I would like it if more of the info that makes you feel that way was made publicly available and easy to find. Maybe you know where it is. Other people might want to know, too. Thanks for your input.

Re:For what purpose (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 8 months ago | (#45909857)

Couldn't NASA list the experiments, what they are trying to find out and if they have been successful?

NASA does list [nasa.gov] the experiments. They are sorted in multiple directions too (by date, mission, researchers, and alphabetically). None the less, your point that media outlets don't really pay attention to this list is a good one and something that should be done to smack some of these journalists into reality.

Another really interesting company who is currently sending experiments up to the ISS is Nanoracks [nanoracks.com] , a for-profit company partnering with NASA on the ISS who is willing to put literally anybody's experiment onto the ISS in a standard enclosure. Results can be either transmitted by telemetry or physically returned to the Earth after completion, exposed to the vacuum of LEO space or kept inside depending on your experimental variables. Thanks to some cooperation Nanoracks has even been able to offer 4 inch cubesats (aka about four inches on each side of the cube) that can be launched from the ISS. If you have some spare bucks, one company even allows you to operate your own satellite [nanosatisfi.com] through a web browser. It only costs $1k per week where you can develop your own software to use the devices on that satellite. That is a price that a mere mortal like myself or even a college student could put together if they cared.... and that company is even interested in high school groups doing experiments in space.

None of this stuff I've mentioned would be possible without the ISS. Admittedly another space station could be built to do the same thing, but that would require simialr capital outlays to get such a station built in the first place. The ISS is currently open and doing this sort of thing, so it seems a shame to waste this opportunity. Companies like Nanoracks are not being subsidized at least for the astronaut's time and expendible supplies (that is part of the cost of sending those experiments to space), so I do think it would be a shame to destroy a perfectly good research lab now that it is built even if you may think it was far too expensive to build in the first place.

Re:For what purpose (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#45911875)

None of this stuff I've mentioned would be possible without the ISS.

I don't know about whether this stuff would be possible, but it'd certainly be cheaper without the ISS, when it were done.

Re:For what purpose (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 8 months ago | (#45913905)

None of this stuff I've mentioned would be possible without the ISS.

I don't know about whether this stuff would be possible, but it'd certainly be cheaper without the ISS, when it were done.

Treatiing the existing ISS structure as sunk costs with the exception of any additional maintenance issues for ongoing development, what kind of costs are we talking about for similar kinds of research currently done on the ISS but performed upon other platforms? I simply disagree with you in regards to the cost being even orders of magnitude cheaper.... and much of that research simply can't be done with single purpose built spacecraft. Even for those experiments which are largely automated, the ISS still has some excellent and cost effective facilities where experiment builders don't need to deal with the substantial overhead of building the spacecraft but rather simply concentrate on the experiment itself.

It is a fair conjecture to suggest it would be cheaper, but the costs for sending experiments up with NanoRacks seem to suggest otherwise. If you can suggest strongly that NanoRacks is being heavily subsidized by taxpayers (other than like I said sunk costs that aren't recoverable from the construction of the ISS), I would definitely be much more pursuaded to accept your argument.

I am not going to dispute that building something like the ISS could have been done much, much cheaper and without the incredibly huge overhead that happened in terms of a government bureaucracy sending up over priced parts on a vehicle designed by a committee that was never really good at any one mission and hugely expensive to operate. Certainly building a completely new station from scratch using something like a Falcon Heavy for launching the components into space and using Bigelow habitats could be built substantially cheaper. Using a back of the envelope guess on published prices for those components, such a station could be built for less than $1.5 billion or about the cost of a single shuttle mission and have more volume and more power to get things done. That is even being generous with the expenses and possibly could be made cheaper still, but that is at least a first stab at a rough price. Why NASA is spending twice that amount annually for ongoing expenses just to operate the ISS suggests there may be some other places that the money is being spent.

Regardless, there still is value for space based research. As bad as NASA is and how bloated that agency is performing, it is surprisingly one of the better run federal agencies that actually performs practical and useful functions that positively impact ordinary citizens in their daily lives. Far more money gets dumped on far more useless projects (the TSA in particular comes to mind, not to mention a great deal of what the NSA is doing) that banging on NASA waste is particularly pointless.

Re:For what purpose (1)

Iridium_Hack (931607) | about 8 months ago | (#45916563)

I had forgotten the 'experiment in a cube' thing that they were doing now. In some ways ISS has already been "merchandised." Some might want to pay for an experiment in space. Others might want to take a multi-million dollar 'vacation' in space. So I stand corrected in under-estimating the uses they have put ISS to. And glad to hear of it again, really. Thanks!

A relative of mine used to work at NASA and I became familiar with its budgetary challenges. That NASA could go a long way on a fraction of the money being spent on overseas wars is an excellent point someone else made. They have had to become much more efficient than they used to be since the Apollo days. And since the shuttle disasters, more humble.

So if we could take that large chunk of money from the foreign wars and the defense budget mentioned above, would putting it into the ISS and NASA be the Best use of it? Or is it just a Good use of it? My teaching has always been that discerning between good and best is where the real challenge in life lies. No one wants to appear in favor of something bad. There are always lots of "Good" uses for money. Ask any lobbyist. And any bureaucrat will tell you they can put the money to good use. It doesn't matter if they are in NASA or not. But what is the best thing to do?

Herein we may disagree. And on Slashdot, where many of us nerds revel in the glories of the space program some may want to simply dump more and more tax payer dollars. But speaking of best, just suppose the central government were cut to the minimum constitutional level it was originally at. Then, with no taxes (that's how it was for the first 100+ years), everyone would have an extra 30% of their salary to play with. There could be a space program charity for people to donate to. It would be a popular one for many nerds. I laugh at those of you who think it wouldn't work. I see how much people give to things like United Way even after having 30%+ of their money pulled out of their wallets by taxes. Honestly, I think we would have already been to Mars and Back - with a crew of astronauts.

We won't hold our breath on that one. . . yet. For now, I'll just say I'm in agreement that letting ISS drop out of the sky would be a waste of money and it should be allowed to continue - and where possible, updated and improved. There are certainly bigger fish to fry than the ISS.

Re:For what purpose (1)

Iridium_Hack (931607) | about 8 months ago | (#45916579)

By the way, I've linked to your link on the experiments. Thanks!

Re:For what purpose (1)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#45911861)

When does INL turn a profit? Los Alamos? Amundsen-Scott? Those are all major laboratories doing basic research. The ISS justifiably fits right in there with all of those facilities, and I"m glad that it is treated as such.

Indeed, the US has a great tradition of money sinks be it research or the occasional interminable war. Imagine, if you can, how bad it would be if the US were to actually use that money for something useful rather than misemploying eggheads or bombing brown people.

Regardless, the ISS is doing some tremendous work right now, and it is disingenuous to suggest that spider webs are the only thing being studied.

I'm sure there's useful stuff being studied. Who knows? It might even some day approach within an order of magnitude of the original cost of the station.

When I read posts like the above, I have to remind myself that not everyone realizes the extremely high value of what could have been done with the money spent on publicly funded research like the ISS.

For example, we could have built three or so ISSs for that price (at least half of the savings gained by cutting out the Space Shuttle and a similar amount gained by dropping the "international" from the ISS). But we prudently didn't because the research is far too valuable to triple the quantity produced without actually spending a cent more.

The Russians will have to wait a bit longer (3, Informative)

bobbied (2522392) | about 8 months ago | (#45906827)

They where already planning for the demise of the ISS. They where going to salvage parts that they owned and create their own orbiting platform for deep space exploration. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_Piloted_Assembly_and_Experiment_Complex [wikipedia.org]

Time for a Shift in Focus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45907001)

How long is NASA going to keep building vehicles to reach out to the rest of the Solar System that need to be launched from the ground? They need to start using low earth orbit as a springboard, especially to the outer planets. Given that most of the energy used in any current space launch is necessary to overcome gravity why isn't there a focus on assembling vehicles in low earth orbit and then sending them on their way with a much smaller use of energy?

Re:Time for a Shift in Focus (1)

east coast (590680) | about 8 months ago | (#45907057)

You'd still have to rocket whatever you need to build into LOE. So you'd still be spending the same energy either way.

Everything will need to be launched from Earth until you have a base that can produce it's own equipment and fuel. You're not going to have that in LOE.

Re:Time for a Shift in Focus (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#45907361)

...because the energy involved in launching an Earth-assembled probe directly into deep space is by physical necessity equal to or less than launching that probe's parts into space, stopping them, assembling them, launching the probe's fuel, then launching the probe into deep space.

Re:Time for a Shift in Focus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45907877)

You're neglecting air resistance. This isn't Physics 101 anymore; you can't do that.

FAIL (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about 8 months ago | (#45909005)

If you launch them with just the right amount of energy, you don't NEED to "stop them". They'll end up in an orbit around earth. Not as if we had not been already doing that for decades.... Back to school, dude !

Re:FAIL (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#45915099)

You have to perform orbital insertion, or the payload will return directly to the launch site by simple physics. That costs energy.

Ah. With what money will this be done, praythee ? (1)

vikingpower (768921) | about 8 months ago | (#45908973)

The US being virtually bankrupt, I wonder where the money will come from.... but then again:

*slap on forehead* of course. The Fed will just print some *slap on forehead*

Re:Ah. With what money will this be done, praythee (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about 8 months ago | (#45909539)

The US is too far in debt for this to make any difference.

It's in the wrong orbit! (1)

blindseer (891256) | about 8 months ago | (#45911801)

I hear this all the time about how the ISS is supposed to evolve into this orbital "gas station" for future missions to the moon, Mars, or beyond. The problem with that is the ISS is in the wrong orbit for doing that. To get the ISS project off the ground the orbit was shifted from it's original low angle orbit to a high angle orbit. This higher angle made it cheaper and easier for supply missions from existing Russian launch sites.

I won't pretend I understand all the physics but I get the general concept. To reach the ISS from Russia easily means that the orbit had to deviate quite a bit from the equator. Any spacecraft bound for a destination within the solar system requires a trajectory very close to the orbital plane of the planets.

I understand that every orbit is a compromise since the Earth's rotation and other motions of objects in the solar system means that there is no one perfect orbit for an orbital platform to use as a filling station or assembly point. I do recall that ISS has an orbit far from anything close to ideal as a stopping off point for a destination within the solar system. A spacecraft stopping at ISS on its way to any other point in the solar system would burn far too much fuel in getting there that there is just not enough fuel that ISS could transfer to the craft to make the stop worth it.

It was also explained to me that moving the ISS to a more suitable orbit would be exceedingly expensive. It would just be cheaper and easier to build another station in this more suitable orbit. I'm just angered a bit when people claim that the ISS is going to be our gas station in the sky for our future manned mission to Mars.

I am pleased a bit that we (speaking as an American citizen and a member of the human race) are not abandoning manned missions in space. I'm hoping that at some point we see multiple manned orbital platforms, some made specifically as a stop off point for manned missions beyond low Earth orbit. If NASA could get its act together then maybe we could see an American flag painted on such a station before China or Russia beats us to it.

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