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back to article Space Station bags extra 10yrs of life as SOLAR STORM scrubs resupply

NASA has received the go-ahead from the US government to extend the life of the International Space Station, allowing the structure to remain operational through 2024. The Obama administration today issued an order that will extend the life of the orbiting lab through to its 25th birthday, clearing the way for more missions and …

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Oh crap.

The ISS is a useless PR stunt. It does nothing to advance space exploration, on the contrary it (together with the equally useless space shuttle) is the reason no human has walked on another planet since 1972: the ISS and the shuttle have eaten all resources available for manned space exploration, and then some.

The ISS is a white elephant which should have been deorbited a decade ago.

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Re: Oh crap.

Trust me from experience. You speak the truth but will get down voted ruthlessly by the NASA fanbois for questioning dogma.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh crap.

I might agree with most of what you said. However... DOWNVOTE!!! :) Man never walked on another planet. Man walked on a moon.

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Joke

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The moon landings were faked. On a soundstage somewhere on Mars <grin>

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Re: Oh crap.

I wouldn't say useLESS, just rather less useful than manned true SPACE exploration would have been. I think the ISS should be kept but financed privately (tourists etc). Make it a working holiday for them and they can even help.

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Re: Oh crap.

It does nothing to advance space exploration

To date, your comment is 100% true.

But I can imagine a time may come when the ISS could be used as a staging-post for exploring further afield. Rather than having to chuck an entire huge vehicle up into outer space in one go, why not lift it in manageable sections as far as LEO, assemble, then go from there.

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Man has never walked on another planet, the moon is not a planet, it's a satellite

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Re: Oh crap.

What has the ISS ever done for space exploration?

Well there are the space medicine research in to the effects of long term effects of living in space, Experiments in plant cultivation, long term tests in equipment designed to keep humans alive in space over spans equivalent to a long term space mission, refining techniques for engineering and repair in space, material research, space crew psychology,...

Ok Apart from space medicine, plant Cultivation, mechanical design, technology improvements, improvement in space engineering, material technology, crew psychology, what has the ISS EVER done for space exploration

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Re: Oh crap.

"The ISS is a useless PR stunt. It does nothing to advance space exploration, on the contrary it (together with the equally useless space shuttle) is the reason no human has walked on another planet since 1972: the ISS and the shuttle have eaten all resources available for manned space exploration, and then some."

That is kinda of bullshit. The ISS costs NASA about $3B a year out of a $17B budget. So, it wasn't that one thing keeping you off the moon.

Lots of people, myself included, think that manned space flight, is in direct competition with space exploration. If you want to explore a lot, you need to leave the people back on earth.

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Re: Oh crap.

@hammarbtyp: All of which could have been achieved just as well and more cheaply WITHOUT the ISS.

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> If you want to explore a lot, you need to leave the people back on earth.

Absolutely. Even given that, the ISS gives you the least amount of space exploration possible for the money.

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That's not a moon, it's a spacestation!

(had to be said!)

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Re: Oh crap.

"The ISS is a useless PR stunt. It does nothing to advance space exploration"

A little harsh perhaps, although I see your point - the ISS is a very cut-down version of what was originally meant to happen. However, building the space station has provided various space agencies with vast amounts of data on how to build very large structures in orbit and many hundreds of hours data on space walks. This is important information for anyone planning to go further afield.

Additionally, the resupply contracts have got private enterprise interested in space and that's the really crucial point - I suspect the reason we're not exploring the solar system is that until now, there's been no money to be made up there.

So yes, the direct contribution of the ISS to space exploration has been limited but, as is often the case with this sort of programme, the spin-offs have been good news.

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Re: Oh crap.

@Vociferous I would love to see your proof of that. It is hard to see how you could simulate 6 months of zero gravity space exposure without actually doing it.

Even if you could simulate it, at some point you will need to test it. To do so the best place to do it would be in low earth orbit(Unless you want to go on a 6 month voyage to say Mars with unproven technology). Whichever way you do it we come back to some sort of manned orbiting laboratory. The only way to do it cheaper would be to basically accept that there will be a large number of human casualties on the way(Which was basically the attitude that Apollo took. They we were at war in those days so it was considered acceptable).

The problem with both the space program in the 70's and the shuttle program was that it did not have a long term plan. The solutions were one off and had little stretch in them. The ISS has proved that it can be extended and adapted to new roles. As such it is an invaluable resource for the future of manned space exploration

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Re: Oh crap.

Vociferous,

One of the reasons the ISS got funding, was that it was a way for US government to help the Russians keep some of their space infrastructure intact, after the Cold War. For example, I rember reading in the Economist back in the late 90s, that Iran were offering $1m a year (tax free) to any senior Russian rocket scientist to come and help with their missile program. I guess that was a way to sell it to Congress, who've mostly been sceptical of space stuff. A large part of what got Man to the Moon was probably Lyndon Johnson grabbing people by the bollocks in darkened rooms...

So there's the 'No Bucks, No Buck Rogers' thing, that suggests you might struggle to get funding for manned spaceflight without some other reason. Space is not a universally popular project to spend cash on amongst either voters or politicians.

Add to that the international co-operation thing, which has got the Russians, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Japanese and others all working together - which may well turn out to be the biggest legacy of the ISS in the end. It also makes it harder for any one country's politicians to cancel the program.

Then we come to the even sillier part of your argument. The idea that we can just go off exploring space without having done the groundwork (if you'll pardon the pun) first. If you don't do spaceflight as a series of small steps, you get people kiilled. Often you kill people even doing it that way. Any flight to Mars would be an almost certain death sentence now. We still need advances in radiation shielding, space medicine, re-cycling, life-support and engines. All of those areas are being studied on the ISS, in one way or another. They only just got the wee-recylcing space-toilet working last year, you don't piss around with that sort of thing on a trip to Mars without testing. And while it got tested on Earth, it still broke down in space and had to get fixed. When your water recycling breaks down halfway through a 2 year trip to Mars, don't come crying to me...

There is science going on at the ISS. More than at the start too. As they're now spending less time on building it. But then I'd argue that building a huge structure in orbit is science.

Then we have the fact that most previous attempts to keep a permanent human presence in orbit have nearly failed horribly. Mir had a series of near disasters, the Skylab program was worse, the Soviets had various stations going on in the 80s, that I know less about. So it's not like manned orbit is fully understood yet, and we can just say 'done', and go on to the next bit.

Finally it's worth mentioning commercial spacefight. What will keep us in space is money. Again, it's back to 'No Bucks, No Buck Rogers'! Governments have infinite pressure on them to spend taxpayer's cash on stuff, and not all taxpayers want space. Some really, violently hate it. That's no sound basis for long-term projects. 2 things will get long-term investment in space going, warfare or commercial success. Let's hope for the latter. It could be that there'll be a new global armsrace in space, and that will certainly get the budget flowing, and we could end up with a permanent military presence up there - space fighters and satellite weapons ahoy! Or (depressingly maybe 'and') we might get permanent orbiting factories, asteroid mining and space tourism. That still looks a long way off, but the ISS has given us our first commercial outfit with an earth-returnable spaceship. OK, SpaceX haven't got it man-rated yet, but it's designed to be. It's also supposedly designed to land on the Moon or Mars.

What better manned spaceflght option has there been, other than the ISS, in the last twenty years?

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Re: Oh crap.

Aquaducts...And its safe to walk the streets at night

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Re: Oh crap.

> It is hard to see how you could simulate 6 months of zero gravity space exposure without actually doing it.

You don't need a permanent space station to put someone in space for six months. Plus, the Russians had already done it with Solyut and Mir -- no ISS astronaut have beaten Solyakov's record of 437 consecutive days in space.

> The problem with both the space program in the 70's and the shuttle program was that it did not have a long term plan. The solutions were one off and had little stretch in them. The ISS has proved that it can be extended and adapted to new roles.

The ISS was conceived as a PR stunt, and it still to this days operates as a PR stunt. It does no useful science which could not be done better, cheaper, or both, without the ISS.

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Happy

Re: Oh crap.

>You don't need a permanent space station to put someone in space for six months.

True, but you do need a space station to put someone in space for six months with a reasonable amount of comfort.

>Plus, the Russians had already done it with Solyut and Mir

Again true, but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be repeated. For Science!

>no ISS astronaut have beaten Solyakov's record of 437 consecutive days in space

I wasn't aware that this was a competition, something that had to be "won". Not to belittle Polyakov's achievement, but the more often we send people up, for extended periods of time, the more data we have on the degredation of the human body whilst in space, which enables the boffo's to add a little more to the long term survivability of the human race's adventures to explore the Great Beyond™.

For Science!

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Re: Oh crap.

Vociferous,

What useful manned spaceflight are you talking about? I can't see popping back to the Moon being any more scientifically useful than wandering round in orbit, as the ISS does. I don't get what alternatives you're suggesting.

The science is still partly the living in space thing. There's still plenty of data to collect from just doing that. Plus they are doing a bunch of experiments on the ISS. Helped immensely now that we have the SpaceX Dragon capsules that can return experiments to Earth again. You wouldn't get more research happening on a manned ship that was going somewhere else, as they'll be spending time on their own maintenance, as well as the going somewhere thing.

Plus the elephant in the room, which is leaving the Earth's magnetic field. It's scary out there, and full or radioactive death. Only the Apollo astronauts have done it so far, and they only did it for a few days at a time. I don't believe we currently have the shielding technology for normal travel, let alone if the ship gets hit by a solar flare.

That's either going to come through materials science, or it's going to be done with bulk. If you go the bulk approach, then you'll need a ship constructed in orbit. In which case you're back to needing a permanent space station.

I really struggle to imagine any space program in the near or medium term future that isn't going to rely on some supplies and workers from Earth, and therefore that isn't going to need a space station in Earth orbit. It's going to be a long time before we can build anything entirely in space, so we're going to require earth construction and space assembly, which will likely be done in earth orbit. That's assuming we even get that far. Otherwise any manned spaceflight is just going to be glorified tourism for a tiny number of astronauts on the public meal-ticket. Not that I object to this, space is cool. But a significant number of other tax payers do, and the program is liable to get shot down in electoral flames.

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Re: Oh crap.

It's not supposed to. it was supposed to develop manned spaceflight technology.

There's a whole heap of medical issues that you could wing with a quick hop to the moon that'll make you terminally ill on a 6-month voyage to Mars. As Chris Hadfield was saying on Stargazing Live last night, over the past 10 years they've overcome most of them, bar maintaining bone density, particularly around the pelvis.

It's a whole set of different challenges to living on a Moon or Mars base where you have a modicum of gravity, and can bury yourself to weather solar storms, etc.

The other problem with Space Races is they tend to have a goal, and when you hit that goal everything stops, as compared to the incremental progress we're making now.

Which is not to say that it isn't intensely frustrating that we don't have a Moon base nor a Mars base yet, but that's down to the whiplash inducing u-turns of the US Congress and POTUS - Cameron has nothing on them! "We're going back to the moon!". 2 years later "We're going to Mars! By 2030. Scratch Consteallation and the Moon programme" Yeah, and your successor will have a different idea, as will their successor, and 3-4 presidents down the line we get to 2030 and have still gone no further, but will have the half-baked recipes for 3 separate programmes filed away, each with about 5 years work done on them.

The politicians are stifling it, which has nothing to do with the ISS - as Cunningham was saying on SGL last night, Apollo 7 that he flew on was an orbital test. If it had gone badly, Apollo 8 (a mere two months later) would have repeated it and sought to get it right instead of going around the Moon. Changing the mission profiles and goals was at the behest of the controllers and engineers. These days you'd have to go back to the Congressional Funding Committee and plead your case to a bunch of non-specialists who will then spend a few months debating whether the engineers are allowed more test flights.

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Re: Oh crap.

The ISS is a useless PR stunt.

If that's all it is, they're doing a piss-poor job at it. Like, why don't they have some cute animals up there with 24/7 space-kitty cams? Maybe you have something with your post's title there, though... having cat piss and shit flying around everywhere would be kind of disgusting.

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Re: Oh crap.

> What useful manned spaceflight are you talking about?

ANY.

Even going back to the moon, near-useless though that would be, would advance our knowledge more than the ISS... but there's many other places to go. It was only when the shuttle was decommissioned it became possible to star talking about sending astronauts to asteroids, or Mars. Before that NASA was fettered by an unsafe and ridiculously expensive lift vehicle incapable of going above low Earth orbit.

So good riddance to the shuttle, but sadly we still have the ISS. One hundred and fifty billion dollars down the drain, and counting. How many actual exploration missions, robotic AND manned, could we have had for that money instead of piddling around just off Earth's surface?

As for radiation, that's a technical and solvable problem, for instance by surrounding the pod with a layer of water, a material you're going to have to bring anyway. Or, if that's not acceptable, send robots. Anything is better than doing PR in low Earth orbit.

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Re: Oh crap.

Vociferous,

Going back to the Moon doesn't solve any more problems than being on the ISS. The shuttle actually might have taught us some new things about Earth-to-orbit flight, which is still the biggest problem of space travel, from which most of the other problems flow. But I think the lesson we seem to have learned, was that it's not worth doing again. I'm not sure that's the correct lesson, but then I still don't think we have the technical solutiosn (either engines or material science) to build a practical Earth-to-orbit taxi.

You can't just dismiss the radiation problems with water. To get enough water to surround your astronauts, you're going to need a bloody big ship. Plus an engine that can push it, plus the actual water itself. That ship will need to be assembled in orbit. One of the things the ISS was designed to teach us. Current rockets would give us a pretty slow trip to Mars, or a huge ship, with big fuel tanks. Though modern engine research and testing (some of it being done, or about to be, on the ISS.

One of the problems we have is that there are only 3 currently practical things to do in space. Go to the Moon, do the ISS thing, or repair satellites. There's notthing else close enough to the Earth to do safely. Repairing satellites is incredibly hard and expensive. You've complained about the cost of the ISS, but that's only keeping 6 people in orbit. To repair satellites would need more, with more resources in orbit - and so at current costs would probably be uneconomic. Which means we need to cut the costs of living in space, and of Earth-to-orbit flight, which means we need the experience of the ISS and the shuttle. Here the ISS also helps, because of COTS. Space X may be about to cut costs by a huge amount, which might make more things possible.

I really don't see any possibility of deeper manned space exploration without the ISS, or something like it. This is the kind of expensive, only semi-useful, thing that government does best. We're learning loads of stuff, but the scienctific gains are probably far too expensive compared to what could be funded on Earth. However, we need this in-space experience before the commercial sector can go do it's thing. We need a platform to test growing plants, because that's going to have to happen in long-term space travel, or people are going to need awfully big ships. That still needs to be studied.

For example 1 person needs say 5kg of supplies per day - food/water/oxygen/whatever. It's 2 years to Mars. That's over 3.5 tonnes of supplies, per astronaut. Maybe that's a bit too much, but a Dragon can get 2.5 tonnes to orbit. So if you want to take 6 astronauts to Mars, that's 8 Dragon flights, to put them, and their dinner up. Now you've got to get the ship up there. Including a couple of Mars landers. If they're to spend more than a token couple of days on Mars, then you need to give them spare landers, and plenty of fuel. Because to stay on Mars for more than a few days, they'll need tons of cargo, radiation shielding (or digging equipment). All this makes the ship bigger, and more expensive. We're talking low tens of billions, a pointless fly-by or a suicide mission.

Make that an asteroid, and things get easier. You've still got the living in space thing, so the huge ship with radiation shielding and loads-a-food. But the journey can be shorter (hence a smaller ship), if you pick the right asteroid. You can do without landers, and do your exploration with suits and backpack jets. Then maybe do some mining/prospecting. Maybe attach a dirty great rocket, and push the thing to Earth orbit, to build spacestation on? But even that's at the edge of our technical capabilities, and beyond our current political/budget capabilities.

If you want to argue this means giving up on manned spaceflight, and going all robot probe-y - then you're possibly correct. But I'm unsure if I'm on board with that. I'm certainly not as inspired by it. I want to see people in space, I want to harness all those lovely free resources up there, if it's possible. The ISS helps to tell us if it is possible. The robots can maybe tell us if the asteroids are full of free resources. But manned flight any further than the geo-magnetic field will probably be horrifically expensive for decades even in the best case scenario. So the only pracitcal chance of a trip to Mars is probably a space race with China, and that would probably only happen if we got into some kind of Cold War II. Not a price I'd want to pay for the exploration I'd like to see. So to me, the answer is making permanent orbital presence possible (and cheaper), the economics being covered by whatever goodies can be manufactured best in micro-gravity, and satellite repair. Then try to capture an asteroid and mine it. If we could get one with hydrocarbons, then we wouldn't have to keep boosting rocket fuel into orbit. Ditto for growing plants for food/oxygen. Then we could try orbital manufacturing. It's a chicken and egg problem, unless we can solve the horrific costs of Earth-to-orbit. How do you make a space based economy viable, when it costs so damned much to start up?

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Re: Oh crap.

> Going back to the Moon doesn't solve any more problems than being on the ISS.

It might: it's exploration. The Moon is the probably most boring body in the solar system, and going anywhere else would be better, but there IS at least an off chance that something interesting can be found. Nothing can be found by just barely clearing the atmosphere with the ISS.

> You can't just dismiss the radiation problems with water. To get enough water to surround your astronauts, you're going to need a bloody big ship.

7" of water halves the radiation level, in reality the effect is bigger because there's also metal in the hull. IMO the problem with radiation has been exaggerated almost as much as the psychological risks. The radiation dose described by NASA in that article for a roundtrip to Mars translates to a 5% increase in lifetime cancer risk.

> there are only 3 currently practical things to do in space. Go to the Moon, do the ISS thing, or repair satellites.

And you can pretty much scratch "go to the Moon" from that list. Hauling cargo to the ISS turns a profit because the states pay, and launching/repairing satellites turn a profit because telecoms pay, but no one will pay you to go to the Moon. Space exploration is inherently unprofitable, that's why no private company do it, only states. Once state actors have explored, then private actors may, eventually, exploit.

> We're talking low tens of billions

Oh I'm pretty sure a Mars mission would cost in the hundreds of billions. But it would yield lots of new information and new technology. And what is the alternative? To continue to achieve nothing by spending billions running PR missions in LEO with the primary objective to produce pretty photos and IMAX movies for the media?

> If you want to argue this means giving up on manned spaceflight, and going all robot probe-y - then you're possibly correct. But I'm unsure if I'm on board with that. I'm certainly not as inspired by it.

You have just cited the inofficial justification for the ISS: although all space exploration is presently carried out by robots, and although the ISS is effectively useless, the ISS is necessary because it inspires people. I am not cynical enough to accept that the ISS is the cheapest way to keep the unwashed masses content to pay tax dollars for robotic exploration, I think people have been plenty inspired by, say, Hubble, Curiosity and Spirit, and would be even more inspired by a manned mission which actually explored new territory.

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@I ain't Spartacus

I'm not convinced that a new could war would be a prerequisite for a US/China space race. I suspect that somewhere deep in the Chinese psyche it rankles that they lost the technology race with the West when that Italian guy stole all their secrets and now they are once more a super-power what better way to use all those iPhone manufacturing profits than with a mission to Mars. I'm no economist so I have no idea whether either country could afford it but since it's the Americans who are buying the iPhones I suspect they'd have the worst of it.

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Re: But I can imagine a time may come

Shoddy thinking my boy.

The ISS has nothing at the moment that would be useful toward such a mission. That means you're going to build the entire apparatus here on Earth, lift it to the station, and bolt it onto something that is already 15 years old in the only environment worse for mechanical structures than the sea. And that's before you start assembling the launch vehicles. Far better to build the new structure free-floating from the ISS.

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@ hammarbtyp

Sure thing General McClellan, you just keep prepping for that decisive victory of General Lee.

Meanwhile why don't you let Vociferous and me see join General Grant and see what we can do.

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Re: So, it wasn't that one thing keeping you off the moon.

Voci might be a bit off on focusing on the cost, but he is right about the ISS being at the heart of what keeps us from going out and doing real exploration. It's more the mindset behind the ISS than the budget per se. If you want public funding, you have to put men and women out, and show them being excited about what they are doing. That's what wins hearts and minds, not that sterile satellite probe crap. When you have the hearts and minds, the money follows.

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Re: provided various space agencies with vast amounts of data

"Ye have read, ye have heard, ye have thought," he said, "and the tale is yet to run:

"By the worth of the body that once ye had, give answer—what ha' ye done?"

- Tomlinson, Kipling, 1891

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Re: The solutions were one off and had little stretch

Wow, talk about rewriting history.

The shuttle and the ISS were both the brain kids of people like you back in the 70s. They were sold as the work horses that were going to be used to establish a permanent and somewhat populous presence in space. What we got instead is a constant drain of money that generates just enough positive PR to keep the program on life support. The most important product of the ISS is all the "international goodwill" it generates for politicians.

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Re: that this was a competition

The claim was that it was helping understand the long term effects of staying in space. If that is true multiple people should have been up there for longer than somebody in a Mir capsule, especially given you want the ISS for room.

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Who's next to visit the ISS?

The station has ... been visited by craft from the US, Russia, Europe and Japan.

Who's next to visit the ISS? China or India? On the one hand China is ahead when it comes to (wo)manned space flight, on the other hand China has its own space station to use and India is advancing very quickly.

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Re: Who's next to visit the ISS?

"Who's next to visit the ISS? China or India? On the one hand China is ahead when it comes to (wo)manned space flight, on the other hand China has its own space station to use and India is advancing very quickly."

Neither country is a member of ISS program. So, neither.

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Re: Who's next to visit the ISS?

But what happens if they just ring the bell at the docking point?

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Happy

Re: Who's next to visit the ISS?

But what happens if they just ring the bell at the docking point?

The ISS 'nauts will simply turn the lights off, and hide behind the sofa. Just in case it's the Jehovah's Witnesses...

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Re: Who's next to visit the ISS?

No way China, the USA won't allow it,

the ESA is keen on involving China, unfortunately the USA seems to be in charge of this 'international' project

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Re: Who's next to visit the ISS?

"Just in case it's the Jehovah's Witnesses..."

If the docking port bell rings then there's probably every reason to hide behind the sofa, but it won't be to hide from the Jehovahs, or through any shame at not having tidied up before receiving female Chinese visitors.

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> If the docking port bell rings

Or as the Finnish Culture Office once expressed it:

Something's knocking at my Sputnik's door

A little green man who wants to score

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Trollface

groundbreaking research being conducted

Should be replaced by "groundbreaking duck-tape and WD5 engineering being conducted".

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That's still vital research. When you're halfway back from Mars and your primary cooling pump goes, you're going to need to know how to change it out for the spare. And you'd ideally like to have experience of replacing a spare from cold storage for a couple of years too - because that's an area that's not really been tested before.

Much better to get as many of your fuck-ups as possible over and done with in low earch orbit, with an escape capsule on hand to get you back to Earth pronto, should the need arise.

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Without the ISS we'd have one less location for stranded astronauts to go to when hit by satellite fragments.

... ok yes I know :) Don't get me started on how un-scientific THAT film is.

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Go

Commercial Orbital

I don't think the commercial trucks-to-orbit businesses would exist without the ISS as a pre-existing destination. But they're vital for beginning to live and work and do business in orbit. And that's vital for making the vehicles to go elsewhere, whether for exploration or mining or tourism or what. And that's vital for survival. IMHO. :-)

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I never got why it was such a short lifespan, surely if your planning to stick something into orbit, plan it to have a 50+ year lifespan!

But the biggest problem with the ISS is that the USA is in charge, it is not international really, they refused to let China get involved!

I say the next international exploration of space should only include nasa as a Minor Partner...

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My guess would be a philiosophyof underpromise and overdeliver.

If you claim a mission is planned to last from 1977 to 1989 it looks very impressive if it is still going in 2014. If you say another mission is supposed to run from 1998 to 2048 it looks like a failure if you wind it up in 2024

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I say the next international exploration of space should only include nasa as a Minor Partner...

Who put up the most money? I'm pretty sure it was the Yanks, as they were subsidising the Russians at the beginning, as well as paying their own way. And Europe and Japan have probably put less in than either of them.

The ISS will be dictated to by the Russians and the Americans because they're the ones who could get people there. Ignoring the fact the US temporarily can't - how long is it until SpaceX get their man-rating?

A quick Google suggests that I'm right. I didn't find a source, though I didn't look that hard. But it looks like it's not easy to say, as everyone accounts for it differently. There were a lot more shuttle flights than there have ever been ESA ones though, and of course even more Soyuz and Progress ones. Apparently the $100 billion total cost of the ISS estimate that I've seen before, was from the ESA, and they estimate that their total costs will be about $9 billion. I think that's up to 2024.

Without the space shuttle, I'd imagine that building another big space station from scratch will be considerably harder for many years to come. So I guess we're stuck with what we've got. Plus whatever bits we choose to add to it. Personally I don't see there being any more money from space that'll be forthcoming from government. Unless something (probably something horrible) happens to change things radically. What will get more space hardware built is asteroid mining, orbital power generation or maybe orbital micro-gravity manufacturing.

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Also remember how different technology will be in ten years time, let alone fifty. Refitting an ageing warship or aircraft or freighter is already expensive down here on the surface, so I'd imagine it'd be hundreds of times more expensive in orbit.

Sounds daft but it probably is cheaper just to de-orbit your old space station and bung a new one up there.

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ISS rocks!

So here we re, 15 years into a likely 30 year program. We've designed, built, lifted, assembled and operated the most complex machine ever built and we've done it on an international basis.

So sure, I would be awesome if we had manned crews on multiple planets, zooming in and out of Earth orbit on their way to Federation meetings and all. But the reality is there ain't the money, technology or will to do that, so we do what we can do which is the ISS.

Quick carping. The ISS is a beautiful machine.

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The issue at the moment

Is that the US Air force/Army has no space vehicle of its own at the moment and is so reliant on others to ferry them into orbit since the loss of the Shuttle.There are many designs based on the older style cabin and storage atop a candle on the boards but no openly Government funding likely to happen any time soon and no public taste to see such large investments when times are tough.

As to the ISS it serves as has been said,as a long term flight and technology test bench which clearly cannot be done in Earths atmosphere.As for other planets the next goal should be to make a permanently manned living space on the Moon which is in easier stones throw both for communication and if things should go awry than a rocket on a one way trip to the Mars area.

The only other options open for exploration are the limited robotic agents sent into the vastness of space with some hopeful landfall at the end of the journey.

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Gold badge

Re: The issue at the moment

Well SpaceX Falcon/Dragon is pretty re-usable. The capsules are, and the first stage of the rocket will hopefully be soon as well.

I don't know if Reaction Engines will get anywhere with Sabre. But we can hope.

There's never really been much re-usable space tech. It's not like a plane, where you just fuel it, and send it back up again. With spaceships you have to take them apart and rebuild everything. We're still too near the edge of our materials science to have anything reliable enough to re-use easily. At which point disposable modules may actually be cheaper and more efficient in some cases.

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Trollface

The USA and the ISS

I think the nations that can get people to the ISS should have more of a say in which nations can participate. As the US is relying on the kindness of allies to get any of their own 'nauts up there, maybe they should sit down and let the adults cooperate.

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