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Dave J
2007-Jan-22, 12:37 AM
At the instigation of Mental Avenger, here I go.
Some governments around the world are interested in longer trips into the cosmos. Extended trips to the Moon, off to Mars, etc. Now, there is an ISS up there, with a NASA stated mandate to "finish" construction, albeit in a slimmed down fashion. This finished station will allow more research that today's basic "maintenence" mode. Research that could be valuable towards long term space travel.
So, with it's enormous costs and current multi-national support structure, is the ISS worth it's cost, and potential? Or is it time to cut our losses and leave it for other pursuits?
Is the ISS worth it's weight in mult-national treasure? What say ye?

MentalAvenger
2007-Jan-22, 12:52 AM
Ok, this is a great opportunity for you to list what the scientific importance of the ISS is.

Dave J
2007-Jan-22, 01:22 AM
It's in microgravity for starters. It demands complex EVA maintenence from time to time. It needs improvised crew performed maintenence. These all add to the "skill set" required for long duration manned spaceflight.
Also, right now, aside from some unplanned extensions, the crew tour duration is around 6 months. This alone gives a decent platform for a better understanding of "longer" term microgravity on the human physiology, a larger sample as it were. It's an opportunity to test different countermeasures to the environment.
Admittedly, these are human physiology issues, a very narrow line of science in space. There is also the experience of evaluating long term exposure of various materials in the space environment.
The ISS is expensive, expecially to the US and Russians. I don't know how much it costs, or how much has been put into it thusfar. But, despite it's political birth and role until today, it's up there now, functioning. Isn't there a way to give it a mission, a focus? For all the nations, present and potential, that could use it's space based environment for future plans?
I think it's greatest asset is that it's a space based, human staffed platform. What it's capabilities will be when "finished", I don't know.
I can think of worse ways to spend my tax dollars. So many space programs have been funded enormously then cancelled before fire met the pad. I think abandoning the ISS and it's potential would be just writing off a valuable platform.
Also, once NASA stops flying the shuttle in 2010, who will do the lifting from then, up and down? Or has the decision already been made, because of the loss of the Shuttle trips in the future? This may already be a moot discussion.
Maybe man wasn't intended to go beyond Earths neighborhood without some magical propulsion or mechanical artifical gravity. What are the real limits of human physiology against microgravity. The ISS can provide some answers here, if people find it worthwhile.
It's a very limited science application, I admit.

MentalAvenger
2007-Jan-22, 07:20 AM
DaveJ,
Thank you for your reply. I was expecting a long list of important science benefits. It appears that you have come to the same conclusion that I have, at least in regards to the current value of the ISS. The centrifuge was scrapped, so we donít even get that benefit.

My main objections are that the station is way overpriced for what we got, it wasnít designed to accommodate very many useful projects, and it cannot provide a variety of different artificial gravity areas. IMO the investment cannot be recovered from the ISS. In addition to the limited utility of the station, the operating costs and the required supply and crew changing missions will always outstrip any commercial benefit we can extract from it.

The design does not allow the ISS to be refitted to become commercially viable. We would be ahead in the long run to salvage what we can from the ISS, and build a proper wheel space station. A proper space station would be much larger and able to sustain various levels of artificial gravity. It would be able to recycle virtually all waste materials. It would also have such advantages as a hospital with emergency and surgery rooms. In addition, it would have a much larger staff, be able to supply and service any vessel brought to it, and carry on commercially viable production.

Launch window
2007-Jan-22, 08:11 AM
I loved what it could have been, I loved the old videos and powerpoint shows I saw in the 90s, I loved its potential to become a workable scientific spacestation that would bring even better leaps forward than Skylab's discoveries and the aged MIR that recorded some amazing records. ISS could have been much bigger station that would dwarf the Russian MIR not only in size but in science (only now after billions of dollars wasted is it becoming something comparable to the old Russian one), it could have set the new standard for a united effort in space by reaching its objectives but sadly it failed to live up to the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission, or it could have lived up with other joint projects like USA European co-operation on Soho and Cassini-Huygens (unmanned mission) ISS could have been used as a test bed for long duration Mars missions but instead it produced limited scientific research.


The ISS has never lived up to the hype, too much politics hurt the ISS, Clinton's international spin very really flew nor did Reagan's space station Freedom. The ISS it was badly managed and itself and Shuttle may become one of the greatest white elephants of 21st century

Dave Mitsky
2007-Jan-22, 08:20 AM
The cost of the cosmic white elephant known as the ISS to the US as of 2000 was a mere 100 billion dollars.

http://www.spaceprojects.com/iss/

Dave Mitsky

folkhemmet
2007-Jan-22, 12:30 PM
Unfortunately, the ISS has turned out to be more for show and less for scientific research. Yes, some experiments are being done up there, but nothing to justify the enormous cost which results in money being diverted to it from far more scientifically productive enterprises. For example, HST and the Mars Rovers have told us much more about our cosmic habitat than the ISS at a fraction of the cost; for the cost of the ISS we could be doing more Mars research and building telescopes to image extrasolar planets. As long as it continues to orbit the Earth, the ISS will soak up time and energy of NASA employees, and the funds needed to advance things like TPF, an HST-successor, extensive robot exploration of Jupiter's moons, the Beyond Einstein program, and even attempts at developing new propulsion technologies.

djellison
2007-Jan-22, 03:46 PM
Personally - I believe ISS must be seen through to completion. Griffin has called for international cooperation for the VSE....how much cooperation is he going to get with (the very expensive) Columbus and Kibo sat on the ground gathering dust at KSC? It may seem like a strange justification for such a disgustingly expensive project - but arguably the most important one - demonstrating that each partner in these projects is reliable.

And ignoring the money issue for a second - I am sure that I am not the only one who watches NASA TV during an ISS construction EVA, looks at the helmet cam footage of two arms holding a truss with the horizon of Earth below curving away and I just go "Wow"..in a really big picture sort of way. That in itself is worth something.

Metal Avenger - with your talk of massive spinning ring operating theatres and much larger crew capacity - you're not talking of what ISS should have been - you're talking about what we might build in 2050. It's like criticising a Model T for not having Sat Nav. Hugely expensive and under performing scientifically though it may be - the ISS is probably what kept a US presence in space alive post Columbia. Without it - I would find it hard to believe the time money and effort would have been invested in RTF - resulting in probably a 15 year hiatus in US manned spaceflight. In some respects - the ISS was simply something for NASA to do whilst waiting to be asked to do something else like the VSE.

Doug

Grand_Lunar
2007-Jan-22, 04:38 PM
I'm of two minds when it comes to the ISS.

It's a cool thing to have, but as we've seen it eats a lot of NASA's meger funds.
If managed right, it could do good science. I for one liked the combustion experiements that were done on the Columbia, and would like more done on that. Medical research, new metal alloys, ect, also would be good projects too.

And also, I'd like to see experiments made to find efficent ways to reduce bone loss for long duration stays in space. That would be good prep work for a manned Mars mission.

I do think it ought to be turned over to our international partners after it's completed, so that we may focus on the VSE. Perhaps that might save some cash. I think Russia, for one, could afford it.

Doodler
2007-Jan-22, 06:15 PM
Heh, the ISS kinda reminds me of some of the early Egyptian pyramids before the Giza monsters were built. Some were steeper slopes, some had two different slopes, some just looked like crap, some were art.

The lesson of the pyramids is the same lesson builders and inventors have relearned in every new engineering feat on down the line. Before you find out how to do it right, you've got to find all the ways of doing it wrong.

As a second generation US space station and a third generation Russian space station, even if its not everything it was intended to be, its still an impressive milestone. Use it to the best of our respective abilities now that we've got it, and start working up plans for the follow up.

MentalAvenger
2007-Jan-22, 06:21 PM
Metal Avenger - Ö. Hugely expensive and under performing scientifically though it may be - the ISS is probably what kept a US presence in space alive post Columbia. Without it - I would find it hard to believe the time money and effort would have been invested in RTF - resulting in probably a 15 year hiatus in US manned spaceflight. In some respects - the ISS was simply something for NASA to do whilst waiting to be asked to do something else like the VSE.

Doug
Either that, or the money could have been spent more productively somewhere else, such as sending a REAL robotic rover to Mars.

heusdens
2007-Jan-22, 10:50 PM
Would be a good idea to grant access to the ISS to new spacefaring nations (China is already spacefaring; India might become one).
There is no problem of manning missions to ISS, since the Russians can do that on their own and/or with European joint efforts (new Soyuz launched from Kourou and perhaps in the near future, Kliper).
And what about efforts made by private enterprises, like SpaceX, which are likely to built their own affordable access crafts to space?

MentalAvenger
2007-Jan-22, 11:23 PM
There isnít enough room or facilities in the ISS to accept a significant number of guests.

djellison
2007-Jan-22, 11:38 PM
There is no reason why ISS could not be augmented beyond the 'core complete' plan currently scheduled - indeed there is scope for a LOT of additional russian habitable volume onboard - as well has multiple places where you could expand out of Node's 1 and 2. I believe the current core-complete crew would be 7. It would be quite easy to augment that to 10, 12, 14 - by adding something about the scale of a couple of standard russian modules on the nadir side of the Zvezda/Zarya docking adaptor.

Doug

heusdens
2007-Jan-22, 11:39 PM
There isnít enough room or facilities in the ISS to accept a significant number of guests.

Well, future visitors might need to add those facilities.
The ISS is not finished yet.

JESMKS
2007-Jan-23, 12:43 AM
Would it be possible to move it to an orbit around the moon? It might make a good intermediate stop on the way to the moon.

Doodler
2007-Jan-23, 02:55 AM
Would it be possible to move it to an orbit around the moon? It might make a good intermediate stop on the way to the moon.

Nope, its not even feasible to alter its orbital plane around Earth orbit. Not to say a station in lunar orbit wouldn't be nice, mind you, but that'll probably be some variant of Bigelow's stuff before an ISS analogue.