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A Brief History of the Space Station

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the built-by-the-lowest-bidders dept.

Space 380

HyperbolicParabaloid writes "A story about the history of the International Space Station, and its utility or non-utility for space exploration. One interesting insight: after the Challenger explosion it became obvious that we would never refuel a rocket with volatile fuel at a space station because the threat to the station would be so great. And did you know that to accomodate the Russians, the space station is in an orbit that makes it almost useless as a jumping off point to anywhere?"

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fp! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8178943)

mmmmm, frosty pist!

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8178946)

First Post!

GNAA IS DYING (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8178950)

GNAA is dying. eat it up fuckers

Hooknose (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8178953)

You're a fucking jew, and everybody knows
Hooknose, hooknose - you've got a hooknose

The whites do the work and your bank account grows
Hooknose, hooknose - you've got a hooknose

We'll shove you in the furnace where all the trash goes
Hooknose, hooknose - you've got a hooknose
Hooknose, hooknose - you've got a hooknose

M4d pr0p$ t0 GNAA!

Re:Hooknose (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8178958)

to which melody?

And did you know that to accomodate the Russians (-1, Flamebait)

hplasm (576983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178962)

...ooh hardship! Just as well someone invited the Russians, or the ISS crew would be deep in the doo, as would the ISS project itself.

Shuttle Replacement: Econoline van on top of 10 tons of TNT. Light blue touch paper at arm's length.

handing the russian's money (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179117)

The real story is that the USA has been handing the russian's hundreds of millions of dollars.

Re:handing the russian's money (1)

hplasm (576983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179202)

True, and now they have a monopoly in ISS Service and Transport, Inc.

Re:handing the *Russians* money (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179286)

Your retarded understanding of grammar reflects your retarded understanding of the situation.

Added insight (3, Interesting)

JetScootr (319545) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178963)

I have worked at NASA since before the first shuttle launch. I will post in my journal some added insight to this after work. Obviously, I can not post from work.
What I post will be my opinion only, and not that of Nasa or my employer. Look this evening, around 8 pm central time.

Re:Added insight (-1, Redundant)

samoverton (253101) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179093)

I'm going to post something interesting later too.

Mod me up please.

Mod me up too (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179229)

I'm a jew hatin' Gay Nigger

even more added insight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179231)


I have worked at [company name] since before the first [product name]. I will post in [promotion location] some added insight to this after work. Obviously, I can not post from work.
What I post will be my opinion only, and not that of [company name] or my employer. Look this evening, around [promotion event time].

Full Text (For the NYT tinfoil hat crew) (5, Informative)

mu-sly (632550) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178966)

From Glory to Sideshow: The Space Station's Story
By WILLIAM J. BROAD

Published: February 3, 2004

In 1989, when the first President George Bush announced his plan to send American astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, he called the proposed space station "our critical next step in all our space endeavors." It would be a base in the weightlessness of space where big rockets would be assembled and blast off on voyages of exploration: "a new bridge between the worlds."

Now, with the outpost hurtling through space 240 miles above Earth and with 16 nations struggling to complete the most challenging engineering project of all time, the station has suddenly become a $100 billion dead end.

The current President Bush made no mention of it as a steppingstone in his speech on Jan. 14 reviving the call for missions to the Moon and Mars. Instead, he spoke of it as a site of biomedical research and an "obligation" that the United States had to help finish.

Mr. Bush gave no clear indication how, or whether, the United States planned to use the station after its prospective completion in 2010. With NASA focusing its efforts and its budget on the Moon and Mars, the station's prospects are uncertain.

"I'm worried that they're going to cut off the space shuttle before we have another vehicle that can fly," said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who is the only current member of Congress to have flown in space. "And that will drastically reduce space station use."

What happened? How did the station go from star to sideshow? Experts cite a litany of factors: cost overruns, design changes, new perceptions of technical risk after the shuttle disasters and shifting national priorities. For instance, orbital changes to accommodate Russia after the cold war made it harder to use the station as a launching pad.

The tale has no real bad guys, the experts say, but many false promises.

"It was always a steppingstone to the stars," said Dr. Howard E. McCurdy, a space historian at American University. "It was sold as all things to all people."

Dr. Alex Roland, a former NASA historian now at Duke University, said a moral of the story was that Congress and the public needed to work harder to hold the space agency accountable for its dreams.

"They keep getting trapped in their own rhetoric," he said. "They're willing victims of it. But as public policy it's a disaster because it feeds unrealistic expectations."

At the start of the space age, visionaries invariably saw outposts in earth orbit as jumping-off points. Dr. Wernher von Braun, in a famous 1952 article, told of a huge inhabited wheel. "From this platform," he said, "a trip to the Moon itself will be just a step."

In 1968, Stanley Kubrick's movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" featured a giant outpost in Earth orbit that was a way station to the Moon and Jupiter.

Finally, after decades of fantasies, President Ronald Reagan proposed in 1984 that the United States actually build a space station. It too was envisioned as a hub for colonies on the Moon and Mars. For Mr. Reagan, the station also represented a way to challenge the Soviet Union. In the cold war, Moscow made human outposts a hallmark of its space activities.

But Congress did not vote construction money to pay for either Mr. Reagan's vision or that of the first President Bush. Not until 1993 did a new a new vision for space take shape, this one emphasizing harmony over rivalry. That September, President Bill Clinton announced that Russia had joined the station effort as a full partner. Its giant rockets were seen as a boon for the project and a good backup if the shuttles should again fail catastrophically, as the Challenger did in 1986.

"One world, one station," said Daniel S. Goldin, NASA's administrator at the time.

There was just one problem. For the Russian rockets to reach the grand unified station, it would need a different orbit.

Shuttles flying out of Florida usually go into an orbit at an angle of 28.5 degrees to the Equator. The original station, meant to be built piecemeal as the shuttles carried up parts, was to have taken shape there.

But Russian rockets blast off in Kazakhstan, much higher on the globe than Florida. They cannot fly much lower than 51.6 degrees latitude without running the risk of dropping spent rocket stages or astronauts during an emergency re-entry on Mongolia or northern China. So the Clinton administration decided to erect the station at 51.6 degrees, hailing it as a "world orbit" accessible to all spacefaring nations.

Orbiting at 51.6 degrees, the new station could no longer act as the perfect jumping-off point for the Moon and beyond, experts said. First, shuttles had to work much harder to get there and could carry less cargo. Second, its inclination was too high for outward-bound ships launched from it to get easily into the plane of the solar system and the planets; to do so would normally require a spaceship to spend much energy.

Valin Thorn, a NASA space station engineer, said that once every 10 days or so the station got into a more favorable alignment with the Moon, but that the outpost's new orbit also shortened the maneuvering window for a rendezvous. "If you launch in the same plane," he said, "getting to the Moon is easier."

In its new life, the station was to be a research post, with it and any offspring captive to the planet.

Dr. Hans Mark, NASA's deputy director in the Reagan administration and a driving force behind the old space station plan, said he took the new plan philosophically.

"It ruled it out," he said of the orbit's effect on the outpost as a staging area. But he made no public criticism, he said, because he judged that "it was politically right" to have Moscow join the project given the new spirit of East-West accord.

Dr. Albert D. Wheelon, a former Central Intelligence Agency official who helped shape the nation's early spy-satellite program, headed the technical panel that advised the Clinton administration on the new orbit. He defended the move as technically and politically sound, adding that the group gave no serious discussion to the lost capability.

"The idea of a jumping-off point never came up," he recalled. "Why? It's crazy. The idea that you're going to use the station as a launching pad, refueling with volatile propellants, after Challenger, was just crazy. It was too dangerous. You'd put the whole station at risk."

In late 1998, a shuttle and a Russian rocket carried aloft the first two elements of the space station, their orbit 51.6 degrees. Ever since, assembly has continued in fits and starts. The grounding of the shuttle fleet after last year's Columbia disaster caused a recent pause, though the Russians, as planned, are still carrying up astronauts and supplies. The space station is now expected to cost $100 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime.

As announced on Jan. 14, the Bush administration's plan to go to the Moon and Mars makes no use of the station other than for intensified research on finding ways to help humans survive extended periods of weightlessness and high radiation that endanger long treks through space.

The Moon, experts say, has now taken on the role of steppingstone. "Lifting heavy spacecraft and fuel out of the Earth's gravity is expensive," Mr. Bush said in his speech. "Spacecraft assembled and provisioned on the Moon could escape its far lower gravity using far less energy, and thus, far less cost."

Many experts are skeptical of those claims, saying Mr. Bush overlooked the large energy costs of getting fuel and rockets to the Moon. Previous NASA studies for Mars missions have seldom if ever used the Moon as a launching pad because that would take about twice as much energy as going from the Earth or an Earth outpost.

"The president and some of his advisers appear not to be aware of the implications," said Saunders B. Kramer, a veteran aerospace engineer. "It's worse than a pipe dream. It's nonsense."

Dr. Roland of Duke said the Moon base had the same kind of inflated rhetoric that accompanied the station's debut and could suffer a similar fate.

"One definition of a fanatic is redoubling your effort after losing sight of your objective," he said. "That's NASA's problem. It needs to get back to basics."

Google Link. (-1, Flamebait)

Michael's Mommy (746184) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179007)

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/03/science/space/03 STAT.html?ex=1076389200&en=9f97461fa48be3e6&ei=506 2&partner=GOOGLE

I have outdone your karma whoring.

Now mod me up, please.

WARNING - PARENT FORGOT TO MAKE LNIK (0, Interesting)

Michael's Mommy (746184) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179023)

So can you mod both him and me up? Thanks. I want to post more - LOTS more.

Whores.

nytimes.com/2004/...partner=GOOGLE [nytimes.com]

GO NOW!

Slashdhwores.

Re:Full Text (For the NYT tinfoil hat crew) (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179100)

Some missing context:

So the Clinton administration decided to erect the station at 51.6 degrees, hailing it as a "world orbit" accessible to all spacefaring nations.

Which wasn't a bad way to save the project, when we had no obvious reason (or imaginary cash) to embark outwards.

The Moon, experts say, has now taken on the role of steppingstone. "Lifting heavy spacecraft and fuel out of the Earth's gravity is expensive," Mr. Bush said in his speech. "Spacecraft assembled and provisioned on the Moon could escape its far lower gravity using far less energy, and thus, far less cost."

Many experts are skeptical of those claims, saying Mr. Bush overlooked the large energy costs of getting fuel and rockets to the Moon. Previous NASA studies for Mars missions have seldom if ever used the Moon as a launching pad because that would take about twice as much energy as going from the Earth or an Earth outpost.


...But now, we have an administration that's 1. desperately in need of new sources of energy and a big public-works project to drive an economic recovery, and 2. not afraid of nuclear rockets. The moon makes a much better staging ground for such devices than an inhabited planet you don't want to pollute, and lower gravity would make launch failures lower-risk (less chance of a nuclear core breaking apart on impact).

Only trouble is, we need either all the facilities to construct these things on the moon... or to launch them all from Earth, which rather ruins the cost/benefit ratio.

Re:Full Text (For the NYT tinfoil hat crew) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179154)

This is a copyright violation and will cease to be tolerated in the future. In the meantime you lower the entrance barrier for companies which turn the web into a mass media delivery channel and unnecessarily trample on our privacy. You're doing the "tinfoil hat crew" a tremendous disservice, both by reducing the motives to paranoia and by attenuating the deserved rejection of "free registration required" "services".

Re: link & credit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179213)

you forgot to add "*reprinted without permission from.... [source]"

Built by a committee (5, Insightful)

erick99 (743982) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178967)

The space station, which could have been truly great, ended up being something classically accomplished by committee. It is bisected into halves that are almost identical so that the US has it's own half versus the the Russian half. A lot of concessions and compromises have kept the space station from realizing it's potential.

Happy Trails,

Erick

Re:Built by a committee (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179075)

The space station sucks. The tragedy is that NASA is a giant corporate welfare program for aerospace contractors.

Don't make me laugh... (5, Insightful)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179083)

A lot of concessions and compromises have kept the space station from realizing it's potential.

Yeah, "concessions and compromises" like, say, allowing redundancy in the type of supply vehicles so that if, say, the shuttle fleet was grounded, Russian Soyuz supply ships would still be able to get supplies and replacement crews to the ISS, as well as getting them back.

Yeah, I can see how those "concessions and compromises" are a major bummer. Not.

If you want to blame that shit on someone blame it on the penny-pinching politicians who scaled back the ISS's scope to cut costs.

diplomatic token. (4, Insightful)

QEDog (610238) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179210)

As the article says:

For instance, orbital changes to accommodate Russia after the cold war made it harder to use the station as a launching pad.

Originally the ISS was going to serve as the garage for exploration of the solar system. But, political reasons for collaborating with the russians ("let's be friends to show everyone that the cold war is over") forced to change the orbit four out of the sola system plane to let the russians, from their higher latitude launch pads, reach it and help a bit. The ISS became from one of the greatest scientific endevours to one of the most expensive diplomatic tokens ever.

Re:Built by a committee (5, Insightful)

mwood (25379) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179101)

Awww, come on. I dunno what was originally envisioned, but what we got is clearly a pilot project. It's way too small to be a serious refueling stop. I'm sure that all kinds of good science are being done as manpower and air leaks permit, but it's arguable that the most important thing we're learning from it is how to build space habitats.

(Well, we're also learning that some Russians/Yanks are not so bad after all and that even our governments can get along if they care to try. That's very useful.)

There are some things that we will have to scale up quite a bit in order to make a space station that's more than a floating lab. For one thing, we need a lot more transport capacity: more tonnage per trip and many more trips per year. It takes a *lot of stuff* to build a big space station, and at, what, 4000kg per trip? it's going to take forever.

Obviously the *budget* is going to have to increase quite a bit. Sure, the ISS is already expensive, but ask yourself what it would cost to build lower Manhattan from scratch, from the seabed up, and you'll get a feel for the amount of material, work, and money it takes to build something like what you see in _2001: a Space Odyssey_.

All this scaling suggests something else: *ownership* is going to have to scale up. The ISS is, technically, international since two nations are doing most of it, but what if there were a dozen nations as deeply involved, or a hundred? Of course each nation has its own limits as to what it could reasonably ask itself to contribute to such an effort. (Don't ask me how anyone is going to make the case to governments that are busy figuring out how they're going to pay for enough bullets to settle the score with the tribe next door.)-:

All of these are doable if enough people care, and there are reasons to care. But it's going to be hideously expensive, it's going to take a long time, and it's going to take a lot of steps and leave a lot of pilot projects and outright failures in its wake. The ISS is doing a lot for us, but it's never gonna be that big wheel in the sky -- it never could have been.

Re:Built by a committee (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179242)

The space station, which could have been truly great, ended up being something classically accomplished by committee ... A lot of concessions and compromises have kept the space station from realizing it's potential.

Making it a perfect counterpart to the similarly-designed shuttle.

They both suck.

Write them both off and spend the money on a space elevator.

Space Station (5, Funny)

essreenim (647659) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178968)

Hmm, it's in near earth orbit to accomodate the Russians.

I thought they needed extra fans to accomodate the wind passed by the Russian cosmonots after eating all that dodgy Pizza hut grub.

Those damn Russians (-1, Troll)

centron (61482) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178973)

We're over budget and behind schedule because of the Russianas. It isn't a good jumping off point because of the Russians. We can't get up there right now because guess who doesn't have their own Shuttle? The Russians. Who wants us to prioritize the ISS over other space endeavors? That's right...the Russians.

Re:Those damn Russians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179008)

Eh. And the russians keep the ISS supplied, while the US has put their manned space flight program on hiatus - once again because they managed to blow up seven people due to criminal neglience.

Really, get a grip, man.

So..what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179021)

You need sarcasim tags? A diagram? The ability to beable to browse the internet from the familiar setting of a pop-up book?

Re:Those damn Russians (1)

Ubi_NL (313657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179056)

"We can't get up there right now because guess who doesn't have their own Shuttle"

No they just have the Soyuz rockets that take like 90% of all stuff to and from ISS.
Wasn't it NASA who kept on cancelling flights (Hubble?) because they could not guarantee the safetee of the passengers?

Re:Those damn Russians (2, Insightful)

mwood (25379) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179141)

The Russians *do* have a shuttle, or at least they did, but they never scraped up enough money to fly it. What ever happened to Buran?

(I'll be mildly amused if it turns out to be Russians who create the materials needed for an orbital tower. Hmmm, it *was* their idea....)

Jump off - go nowhere fast. (4, Funny)

gus goose (306978) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178974)

Jumping off the space station will not take you very far very fast. You will pretty much just stay in orbit with the ISS. By definition, it is in orbit. If per chance you DID jump off, in the direction of earth, then it would probably take about a year or so for your orbit to decay enough to re-enter earth's atmosphere.

gus

Re:Jump off - go nowhere fast. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179047)

i don't think that's what anybody meant by 'jumping off' you damn karma whore.

Re:Jump off - go nowhere fast. (3, Informative)

lone_marauder (642787) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179209)

An ejection from the ISS's orbit would get you as far from Earth as an ejection of the same energy from lower inclinations. The question is, once you look at the solar orbit you achieve, how much energy got spent on actual orbital change as opposed to inclination change (relative to the ecliptic).

Even the craziest orbit will offer two opportunities per year for a clean ejection, but that is certainly very restrictive for use as a "stepping stone" to anywhere.

google link (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8178977)

google partner link here [nytimes.com] .

when it comes true (5, Insightful)

vargul (689529) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178980)

do you people recall those many sci-fi movies and books made during the cold war which feature teams coined of american and russian heroes usually working together on a spacecraft or such...?

obviously, it is not that easy.

Registation-free link (4, Informative)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178983)

Here. [nytimes.com]

WTF? +3, Informative? (0)

Michael's Mommy (746184) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179206)

This was posted after another Google mirror link (by the way, you can replace Google with slashdot in the bar), which was given a -1 for Redundancy... but this guy gets 4 more points for a SCO Signature? Yeah, this place is pretty fair.

Re:WTF? +3, Informative? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179221)

You're talking like it was a single unfair moderator doing the moderation here. Actually, it's a whole lot of moderators, sometimes with completely different opinions about things. Some moderators might have thought the -1 one was OK, but not noticed it due to browsing threshold, etc...

It very well may have been... (-1)

Michael's Mommy (746184) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179255)

I blame Michael.

I had an erector set once. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8178986)

The first thing I built wasn't a scale model of the Effiel tower or a working crane.

The space station can run longterm experiments in microgravity while we teach ourselves about working *really* high iron.

In my own life I too look at how things might be perfect all the time. But I don't expect them to be so. And so it is with all endevours. But somehow this one alone should stand out in singular fortuitious perfection?

Less crack more science.

Re:I had an erector set once. (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179025)

The first thing I built wasn't a scale model of the Effiel tower or a working crane.

With an erector set, I'm not sure I want to know a model of what you built with it...

Re:I had an erector set once. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179054)

But did I spell Effiel right?

High inclination (3, Informative)

amightywind (691887) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178989)

And did you know that to accomodate the Russians, the space station is in an orbit that makes it almost useless as a jumping off point to anywhere?

The station is in an inclined orbit of 50 degrees, because Baikonur, the Russians launch site, lies at about that latitude. It takes a lot more energy to launch a shuttle to that inclination than its normal 30 degrees. There are also fewer launch opportunities. One benefit of having the station at a high inclination is for earth observation. It flies over a lot of ground. But it is an expensive way to take pictures isn't it? The station was a bad idea pursued to the bitter end. Credit George W. Bush for changing NASA's focus on it.

Re:High inclination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179064)

Replacing stupid decision with moronic and unreasonable ambition earns him neither credit nor appraisal.

Read near the end of the article and see why.

DEAR MICHAEL. (-1, Offtopic)

Michael's Mommy (746184) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178990)

Please clean up your mess from the keyboard when you're done.

You jerk.

Interesting question about men in space (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8178993)

How do they shit in space? Do they masturbate also or do they live in selibate?

Jumping off points (3, Insightful)

vpscolo (737900) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178995)

Why doesn't NASA just go one step further and establish something on the moon. Surely that would be an even better jumping off point.

Rus

Re:Jumping off points (1)

tsunamifirestorm (729508) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179062)

Well it does says that in the article that it will take more fuel overall to launch from the moon, there is a possible use for launching from the moon. By landing and refueling on the Moon, a spacecraft could have less space allocated for fuel, which could result in either a larger amount of room, or a faster, smaller ship. This would require the previous launch of fuel ships to the Moon, which would raise the cost. This is probably justifiable if allows quicker trips to Mars or room for more goodies.

Re:Jumping off points (1)

krymsin01 (700838) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179130)

It will take LESS fuel, not more fuel, to launch from the moon due to the lower escape velocity (no atmospheric friction, decreased gravity).

Re:Jumping off points (1)

Sepodati (746220) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179201)

What's to stop us from establishing refueling points at various points all the way to mars? Launch unmanned ships and have them staged and ready for refueling the main, manned ship.

Wouldn't that result in a smaller, faster ship (or more room) overall? Or would the slowing down, stopping, refueling, speeding up cycle just make things worse?

---John Holmes...

Re:Jumping off points (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179073)

rtfa?

Re:Jumping off points (1)

Bigman (12384) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179237)

Perhaps it's because they're afraid of the Moon Worms [majormattmason.net] or something?

Bah, Russians (2, Interesting)

malus (6786) | more than 10 years ago | (#8178996)

I enjoyed reading this piece over on Pravda [pravda.ru] about how America faked moon landing & how Russia is just The Best!(tm)

The funny thing about the Pravda... (1)

geeveees (690232) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179250)

"Pravda" is Russian for 'truth', the funny thing is that this paper is the most untrustworthy and only serves as goverment propaganda!

Re:The funny thing about the Pravda... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179279)

Actually these days the Pravda is not a supporter of the government at all. It's still a comunist paper. The problem with the Pravda is that it publishes lots of UFO and new-age nonsense. Did you spot the article about how the Red Army fougth against the OFOs?

Re:Bah, Russians (1)

ceeam (39911) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179260)

Bah, Pravda! Man, you can select your sources ;) It's like - "I've read on that on one american guy's page how all Americans like to ....", it must be true then....

Re:Bah, Russians (0)

JHDillinger (660722) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179288)

July 25....?

Without the Russians it wouldn't BE there (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8178999)

Well excuse me, but as the Russians are about the only reason we have the ISS in the first place, it seems a little stupid to go complaining about having to accommodate them.

Re:Without the Russians it wouldn't BE there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179254)

Well excuse me, but as the Russians are about the only reason we have the ISS in the first place, it seems a little stupid to go complaining about having to accommodate them.

You're missing the point. Given that I'd rather not have the ISS (such as it is), I have every reason to complain.

"Insight" my foot (4, Informative)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179005)

One interesting insight: after the Challenger explosion it became obvious that we would never refuel a rocket with volatile fuel at a space station because the threat to the station would be so great.

Presumably, refueling tanks would be tacked on the ISS, not kept inside the pressurized sections for storage. Therefore, unless the tank violently busts apart (unlikely, a steady leak is far more probable, even in case of a collision), there's no danger of the fuel leaking out and roasting the space station to oblivion. More likely, there'd be a leak, frozen fuel would be dumped in space, and the tank would empty more or less fast, possibly forcing the controllers to stop the ISS from spinning and/or reorient it. There is no such thing as volatile fuel in an atmosphere-less environment.

Re:"Insight" my foot (1)

]ix[ (32472) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179072)

There is no such thing as volatile fuel in an atmosphere-less environment.


Unless the tank next to it happens to carry the oxidizing agent. In space the fule is never "just hydrogen" or anything similar. The oxygene also has to be carried in to space and be stored on/at the station.

--

Re:"Insight" my foot (5, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179092)

There is no such thing as volatile fuel in an atmosphere-less environment.

Ummm... rubbish. Volatile fuel is its own atmosphere.

What you mean is, if we keep the two reactive agents which constitute most modern fuel system designs -away- from each other, then we should be able to safely store this material in space.

Still, I don't see why, with all that wiiiiiide empty space out there, we have to bunch it all together in the same x/y/z ...

Re:"Insight" my foot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179168)

Still, I don't see why, with all that wiiiiiide empty space out there, we have to bunch it all together in the same x/y/z ...

Because it would look really neat!

Volatile fuel? (1)

Ribald (140704) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179249)

One interesting insight: after the Challenger explosion it became obvious that we would never refuel a rocket with volatile fuel at a space station because the threat to the station would be so great.

Volatile fuels like, say, liquid hydrogen and oxygen? Yeah, that's scary. Really 'volatile' stuff.

Everyone who saw Challenger's loss--remember what it looked like? Try here [spacetoday.org] if not. No huge fireball (for the size of the vehicle, anyway) like you'd expect from truly 'volatile' fuels. There was a good amount of fire, but I believe most of the fuels were converted to steam. Even the fuel in the solid rocket boosters (ammonium perchlorate and aluminum) isn't what I'd call 'volatile'--it's designed to burn steadily. The hydrazine used for the OMS engines (and RCS thrusters, IIRC) is another issue--hypergolic fuels are quite dangerous (remember those old WWII videos of German V-2 rockets falling over and exploding?), but there's not all that much of them.

At any rate, the cause of Challenger's loss was the destruction of the external tank's structural integrity, which allowed the liquid hydrogen (and oxygen) to escape and ignite. I'm relatively certain the ISS already has LOX and liquid H2 tanks for the fuel cells (unless all power comes from the solar panels) and oxygen/water generation. What's the issue?

Granted, if we're talking about the shuttle, it doesn't use its main engines after orbit insertion (as the fuel tank is jettisoned), so all it's got is the OMS engines, and like I said--hydrazine is nasty shit. I can understand not wanting a bunch of it stored on the station. Linking that to Challenger doesn't make sense, though--it wasn't hydrazine that killed them.

Of course, they could park a few tanks a safe distance away if they could keep them in the same orbit. Maybe at the L1 [wikipedia.org] point that would work, but we're into a whole new argument there...

--Ty

Had to be said... (5, Funny)

pointzero (707900) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179020)

Russian parts, American parts... ALL MADE IN TAIWAN
Ok back to work.

Sigh... (5, Informative)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179041)

And did you know that to accomodate the Russians, the space station is in an orbit that makes it almost useless as a jumping off point to anywhere?

While this may be true, the ISS was already to be in a horribly useless orbit to begin with, Russians or not.
Because of a weakness in the shuttle and the immense weight of the station, the station is in a perpetually decaying orbit. That is, to say that the shuttle, each time it docks with the station, has to fire its boosters while docked in order to push it back to a higher orbit. If the shuttle doesn't go back to the statio within the next few years, the ISS will go the way of SkyLab. (The Progress and Soyez ships do not have enough power to push the ISS high enough.)

Why put the station in such a poor, low orbit? Because the shuttle can't fly that high.
A recipe for disaster if I ever heard one.

Uh, no (4, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179060)

"Why put the station in such a poor, low orbit? Because the shuttle can't fly that high."

It's not in a low orbit because of the shuttle, it's in a low orbit because it's manned and therefore cannot go higher without being either in or beyond the Van Allen belts: in the belts you'll kill the crew real fast, outside the belts you'll kill the crew the next time there's a solar eruption that emits a lot of radiation. No manned station is going to be much higher than ISS without a lot of radiation shielding.

Re:Uh, no (0, Troll)

Samuel Duncan (737527) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179239)

How they got to moon then, Mr. Clever ?

Re:Uh, no (2, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179248)

They went through the Van Allen belts in a couple of minutes rather than live in them for months, and there were no solar flares during the Apollo flights. Had there been a solar flare, their only chance was to turn the CSM so the fuel tanks of the SM were between them and the sun for some shielding, cross their fingers and kiss their butt goodbye.

Re:Sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179082)

I believe it's the radiation hazards that keep ISS on the relatively low (though higher than Mir) orbit. Take the station higher and you'll get more problems with radiation belt to worry about than savings from rare boosting.

Lifting orbit using Progress ships. (1)

sorlov (103848) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179247)

Progress ship _can_ support the station for as long as needed. They are doing it for more than a year already (remember that the last Shuttle flew more than a year ago). I guess you're confused by how much propellant can Progress carry vs. Shuttle. Of course Shuttle can carry more, but that only means that you need more Progresses than Shuttles to support the station's orbit.

Thankfully... (5, Informative)

C10H14N2 (640033) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179063)

"And did you know that to accomodate the Russians, the space station is in an orbit that makes it almost useless as a jumping off point to anywhere?"

I'm sure the astronauts currently living on the station are quite thankful for this as the United States does not have another vehicle and they would all be dead if Russia could not reach them now that the shuttle has been grounded for a year. Should China and/or Japan enter into this endeavor from a launch vehicle point of view, being accessible is hardly a detriment to the utility of the station.

Clearly, the utility of being able to reach the station from Asia for existing missions far outweighs the utility of using the station as a departure point for missions that have yet to be defined. Besides, the station design is that of a scientific laboratory, not of an orbital drydock. Having already ruled out refueling, can you imagine constructing a transport vehicle in the middle of that tangle of trusses and solar panels? If both construction and refueling are out of the picture, what's left? A snack bar? Seriously, that thing isn't even designed to handle an espresso machine.

Terminal velocity (1, Offtopic)

rcs1000 (462363) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179094)

OK. I have a question, that is sort of related, to this space shuttle issue.

What is terminal velocity? I mean, what is the concept?

If I put up a very tall ladder that reached all the way too... ohhh... low earth orbit, and walked up it, then surely I would manage it without ever reaching terminal velocity.

Help required please!

Re:Terminal velocity (2, Interesting)

oojah (113006) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179106)

I think you mean escape velocity.

Interesting question though :)

Roger

Re:Terminal velocity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179126)

Terminal velocity is the limit to how fast you fall.
You are thinking of escape velocity, which is how fast you need to go to get into orbit. Or how fast you need to go to stay in orbit.
Theoretically, if you had a ladder that went all the way up to geostationary orbit, then yes, you could climb and then get off. However, if you got off before geostationary altitude you would come back down, and if you got off after, well start waving because we wouldn't see you for much longer.

Re:Terminal velocity (5, Informative)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179153)

Terminal velocity is the maximum speed you'd reach if you fell off the ladder at the top. Gravity would be pulling you down, air friction would be pushing you up, eventually they balance and you reach a maximum speed. In a vaccuum you'd keep accellerating till you hit the ground.

You're talking about escape velocity.

Yes, you would, that's the idea of the space elevator that's brought up from time to time. But you'd be expending energy constantly on your way up.

Think of it more that you fire a bullet straight up, how fast would it have to be going to leave earths gravitational well? You expend your energy all at once - like the big engine on a rocket. That's escape velocity.

Re:Terminal velocity (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179185)

You misunderstood what terminal velocity is.

look on Google or wikipedia !

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminal_velocity

Re:Terminal velocity (2, Informative)

jpflip (670957) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179216)

Terminal velocity is the fastest speed at which you can fall. Air resistance prevents you from going any faster under gravity alone, so the exact velocity depends on your shape and size. Yes, you do mean escape velocity. Escape velocity is the speed necessary to completely escape Earth's gravity, NOT just to reach orbit. If you reached escape velocity, you would fly off away from the earth entirely, not end up in orbit. As to the ladder problem, the speed you get is the speed of the ladder being whipped around the earth like a rock on a string. The higher you go, the faster the end of the ladder will whip around. If you ran the ladder all the way up to geosynchronous orbit (the height where an object orbits at the same speed as earth's rotation) you could just hop off and be in that orbit. If you got off lower or higher, you wouldn't be going at the right speed to maintain that orbit and would fall to earth or rise to a higher orbit. Incidentally, another problem is the strength of the ladder. Each separate bit is at a separate height, so each is going too slow or too fast for the orbit at that height and so wants to lead or lag behind the rest of the ladder. The stresses are too much for any ordinary material - that's why people who discuss space elevators talk about using carbon nanotube materials!

Re:Terminal velocity (1)

CrazyTalk (662055) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179280)

Terminal velocity is what you would reach when you fell off said ladder.

An abridged brief history of the space station MIR (0, Offtopic)

brad-d (30038) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179096)

Once upon a time there was a space station called MIR. Then one day a wise man said "What goes up must come down!"; and thus ends our brief history of the space station MIR.

Thanks for watching.

NY Times says so, huh? (2, Informative)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179118)

You sure they're a bunch of rocket scientists with cold, hard facts and plenty of good data and insight, and not just complaining because of a political agenda - ie; it's election time and they're running a slurry of "look how the conservatives are wasting our money for broken stuff when they could be giving prescriptions to old people" articles?

Who cares if its a jumping off point for anywhere? It was never intended to be, AFAIK. It was never meant to be an interplanetary gas station. It's an orbiting research laboratory, plain and simple.

It's value to the scientific community is tremendous, it allows a ton of research into weightlessness, living in space, etc. That's its purpose.

Scientific value (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179259)

> It's value to the scientific community is tremendous, it allows a ton of research into weightlessness, living in space, etc.

Prove it. Cite the scientific papers that are streaming out of the ISS research labs. You can't, because there are practically none.

Space Station (4, Insightful)

RayBender (525745) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179119)

It seems to be fashionable to complain about the space station these days, but the fact is that the current mess in U.S. spaceflight has more to do with funding priorities than any details of the space station design or implementation. IF Congress had been willing to spend a reasonable amount of money up front, so that a number of painful design compromises had been avoided, then we'd have a working, useful Shuttle/Station infrastructure right now. I'm talking about things like the decision to go with solid boosters on the Shuttle, or the decision to abandon Skylab. Remember, after Apollo, NASA saw it's budget drop by 80% and stay there.

Space development is a big bootstrap problem, and the only way to get a virtuous cycle of development and payoff going is to prime the pump with lots of cash. What happened was that funding levels stayed at a level below "critical mass", but have been maintained long enough that it still adds up to a lot of money. Unfortunatly it's been frittered away in a long string of abortive, wasted efforts (Skylab, Freedom, NASP, X-33, X-34, SLI, OSP, etc etc.) If they had just STUCK with any one of those long enough to actually make it work, instead of abandoning it as soon as the first development challenge came along, MAYBE we'd actually be somewhere by now...

As for the decision to work with the Russians on ISS; if we hadn't done that there wouldn't BE a space station. We'd still be on the ground. Notice how the Russians currently supply: the core module, propulsive attitude control, orbit maintenance, life support functions (O2, CO2 removal, water, food, sleep locations), crew transport, the EVA equipment being used, a major part of the power, basic telecom, and some other things. The U.S. supplies: a mostly unused lab module (complete with air leak), some power, a $700 million connector node, high data-rate comm and a lot of paperwork requirements.

As for NASA's progressively more and more conservative attitude; that spells the death knell for actually doing anything. If you can't transfer fuel in space because it might be danegrous, then you won't actually ever go anywhere beyond LEO or maybe the Moon (in limited cases). Captain Obvious says: space has risks. You have to just learn how to deal with them, not just sit back and decree you won't ever run them. At least not if you want to actually accomplish something... duh.

Re:Space Station (0)

ehack (115197) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179232)

If the russians are so smart, why not let them do it alone ?
And, if Nasa is so smart, why haven't they got a flying shuttle ? is that the russian's fault too ?

Stupid americans.. (no, not all americans) (1, Insightful)

topham (32406) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179133)

Bitch and moan about the influence of the Russians, but if it weren't for them the space station would have been abandoned by now.

Governments and science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179146)

This is what happens when governments stick their oars in on scientific projects, you end up with something completely useless when originally it would have been very useful. As scientists we should learn to become a lot more force full and point out to the politicians how messing about with certain projects will destroy them.

Politics has no place in science.

Escape Velocities=Moon is Best (4, Interesting)

Spencerian (465343) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179160)

To escape the Earth's gravity and not be forcibly pulled back, you would have to leave at about 25,000 MPH, or about 7 mi/sec. That's a lot of energy to move a moon shuttle from Earth orbit. Note that it took the entire, very large third stage of the Saturn V rocket just to move the LM and CSM to the moon. If you have small payloads, like space probes, it's not so bad. But economically, there's a way to spread things around.

A space station still works great as a waypoint. It just wouldn't be practical to start your adventure to anywhere except the Moon from there. So, create a new shuttle that can better move men and supplies with much greater abort options (hint: Fly the shuttle by a new next-gen plane to near-space [62 mi) then pop the bastard from there with far less needed fuel and still keep an abort option as both orbiter and booster plane are glideable or have powered-flight capacity).

Such a station would indeed have at least two (backups, remember?) moon shuttles, flyable only in space. What? Fuel? Who says you need to use liquid fuels? Try solids that can be lit and relit in space. The fuel cores could be sent on shuttles without as much worry about volatility than liquids. There is one way to stop a burn in space--stop the oxidizer (you're in vacuum, figure it out). Hypogolic fuels (ones that dont need an igniter--they burn when two substances touch) are still a nice bet as well, and may be safer to upload in separate trips.

Let the moon itself be the fuel depot, optionally--there is probably a way to produce what is needed there.

From the moon, with its puny 1.47 mi/sec escape velocity, trips to anywhere work great and require less energy to achieve. Most importantly, astronauts would have TWO in-space safe-haven return locales in case things get ratty somewhere along the Earth-Moon transits.

Once you're in route to Mars, however, you better be able to make oxygen from a can of Spam, because rescue options would be pretty sparse.

Why are you (1)

AndyRooney (673004) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179208)

Why are you assigning "Moon is Best" to "Escape Velocities"? That's always going to return true, you know.

Google link (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179172)

It's real easy...paste the title into Google News search and it always comes up.... link [nytimes.com]

A waste of money? (-1, Offtopic)

nordicfrost (118437) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179191)

From the article:
the station has suddenly become a $100 billion dead end.

It's certainly much better than other ~$100 billion dead ends. [iraqbodycount.net]

Zero-gee sex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179195)

If its is too undermanned for science experiements and in a too inclined orbit for moon launches, perhaps there is another use for this white elephant.

ISS never was intended for "jumping off" (2, Insightful)

PSaltyDS (467134) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179196)

"And did you know that to accomodate the Russians, the space station is in an orbit that makes it almost useless as a jumping off point to anywhere?"

Since THIS space station was never intended to be a "jumping off point", why is that a problem? Since the Russian capsule is the only way to get people there and back for now, accomodating thems seems like a good decision at this point. If we get to build a space station intended for "jumping off" in the future, it will be built in the required orbit, and I hope Russia, Japan, China, and lots of European countries join in on it!

WHITE HOUSE FIRES BACK OVER BUSH AWOL ACCUSATIONS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8179203)

White House spokesman Scott McClellan called the accusations "shameful" and "the worst of election-year politics." He said "Bush fulfilled his duties" and was honorably discharged. End of story. That should be where it ends. Apparently the military's decision that Bush's service was honorable doesn't sit well with the nutcases on the left.

DNC Chairman Terry McAwful said he looks forward to a debate with John Kerry, a candidate with a chest full of medals, against George Bush, who he says "was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard." Of course, the charge isn't true. But what about the debates with World War II hero George Bush the elder and draft-dodger Bill Clinton? Weren't we told that 'character didn't matter?' What a bunch of lying, hypocritical phonies.

Oh..and what about Howard Dean? He had a medical deferment for a bad back. That didn't stop him from going skiing. Who cares. The fact of the matter is the Vietnam war was unpopular and a lot of people got out of going any way they could. Of course, facts don't mean much to left-wing Democrats.

Re:WHITE HOUSE FIRES BACK OVER BUSH AWOL ACCUSATIO (-1, Offtopic)

AndyRooney (673004) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179228)

I will fight your SCIENCE with WOOD, Robocop!

Umm, I missed a few things (2, Insightful)

mwood (25379) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179219)

How does the Challenger explosion connect with orbital refuelling? I suppose the ISS is a lousy place to store SRBs on cold days, but (a) the SRBs are thrown away before you reach orbit, and (b) one day in vacuum is as cold as another. Naturally fuel storage and transfer wouldn't take place inside the habitat, anymore than the corner gas station keeps its gasoline in jugs stacked in the office. Of course, the gas station is surrounded by oxidizer and the space station isn't, so fuel safety is a somewhat different proposition in orbit....

Why are people questioning the energy cost of hauling fuel and interplanetary spacecraft to the moon for launching? That's the dumb way to do it. You make the fuel and the spacecraft *on the moon*. The whole point of starting from orbit, or from the moon, is to avoid hauling hundreds of tons of stuff up from ground level in the first place. It's been the plan for 50 years or more.

Re:Umm, I missed a few things (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179277)

"How does the Challenger explosion connect with orbital refuelling?"

The shuttles were going to carry liquid-fuelled boosters to launch interplanetary probes like Galileo. After Challenger blew up they rethought that and cancelled any such future flights.

"You make the fuel and the spacecraft *on the moon*. The whole point of starting from orbit, or from the moon, is to avoid hauling hundreds of tons of stuff up from ground level in the first place"

And how exactly do you expect to "make spacecraft on the moon", without "hauling hundreds of tons of stuff up from ground level"? How easy exactly do you think it is to build a spacecraft from rocks with no tools or factories?

station, the (4, Informative)

kulakovich (580584) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179226)

1) Once the U.S. congress cut the funding for the habitaion module, the ISS officially became an orbiting pork barrel. It takes 2.5 people to maintain the station, and with 3 aboard that's .5 peopple for science. The hab module would have accomodated 7 scientists.

2) On fuel-in-space and There is no such thing as volatile fuel in an atmosphere-less environment.

Let's keep looking at this: Volatility doesn't mean simply explosive, and it is true that fuel requires an oxidizer in space, however, here are some problems:

a) Fuel is "sticky". Not sticky like glue, but when it comes into contact with things in microgravity, it stays there.

b) Fuel is caustic and corrosive. There are so many things that we do not want fuel sticking to, such as gaskets, joints of mechanisms, windows, experiments, instruments, and space suits because

c) Much of the fuel for satellites and such are not simply liquid oxigen and nitrogen, but stuff like Hydrazine, which has too many immediate dangers to list. In short, a small amount coming in through an air lock after an EVA could asphyxiate everyone on the station, be ignited by static, etc.

d) In case all that wasn't enough - just how can we approach the ISS if there is a cloud of fuel around it*? We can't fire any thrusters (with their own oxidizers) into a cloud like that.

Ok I'll zip it now.

kulakovich

* Yes, I know, there is already a cloud of bits and pieces and ice and etc. But that is nothing compared to a fuel leak.

Mir (5, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179246)

What I don't understand is why the ISS wasn't built next to Mir.

Okay, Mir was, towards the end, practically falling apart. But... it worked. It had guidance systems, attitude control, life support, power systems, everything you need for a long-term space vehicle. It also had mould, dents, leaks and a shredded solar panel, but we're not that bothered about that.

Start building the ISS as a set of add-on modules to Mir. Take advantage of Mir's facilities until you get the chance to replace them: run off the existing power bus until you get the replacement solar panels sent up (or, preferably, some RTGs). Use Mir's life support until the air recycler is installed. etc.

Eventually the new modules will be supplying all the functionality and the old parts of Mir will be unused. At which stage, you can either use them as living space, or depressurise them and mothball them. Maybe one day you can recycle the raw materials; even as scrap, Mir was ludicrously valuable.

But no, Mir went down in flames and the ISS went down in budget. All for annoying political reasons. IMO it's highly unlikely that the ISS will ever do anything useful. By the time it gets large enough, the commercial stations will be eclipsing it.

What risk? (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 10 years ago | (#8179268)

Forgive me for sounding thick, but in space so long as you keep the fuel and oxidizer separate, where's the explosion risk?
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