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Ivan Seeking

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Not my opinion, but I am hearing talk, just now again in a review of the Top Science Stories of 2003 on The Science Channel, in which the viability and value of the space station and the shuttle are questioned.

The main questions were:

1). What are we accomplishing on the space station?

2). How much cost in money and human life is this effort worth?

3). Could we accomplish the same more cheaply with robots?

I have an almost irrational support for our space program. My bias comes from my love of exploration. Aside from this, what are the current political and economic arguments that justify human activities in space?
 

russ_watters

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Robert Park, spokesman for the American Physical Society testified before Congress that the ISS should be killed because it lacks scientific merrit and actually gets in the way of the useful research NASA does. I tend to agree.
 

selfAdjoint

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Scientists seem to think that the development of space travel was just for them. Didn't the death of the SSC teach them anything? Most people could care less about science. Space travel is about a lot of things - national aspirations and competition, the "moral equivalent of war" - getting our eggs out of the one earthly basket and so on. But science is just something we do with it when for one reason or another the other reasons are demoralized. Scientists criticized the moon missions the same way. Van Allen (of the "Van Allen belts") used to wring his hands that we were spending all that money on a useless sideshow when we could have been studying the heliopause.

Now that the Europeans are putting a lander on Mars and the Chinese are talking about industrializing the moon, maybe the ISS will turn out to be our ace in the hole.
 
My opinion: if it can be done, then do it, period. Technology is my religion: I don't need a flat screen TV, but I will get one anyway because it's new and better, more sophisticated technology. No other justification is needed for me.
 

drag

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Greetings !

Well, it's really stupid in my opinion to question
space exploration, so I don't even wan'na respond to that
aspect here.

I would like to adress some practical aspects though.
The ISS, well, it sucks... It was supposed to have
7 people and much more facilities. Instead, it has 3 people -
which is just a bit more than enough to run it - with
hardly any time left for science. As a result, it's
a very costly and complex lab in which people just
"clean the floors and change light-bulbs" - and all
that for many billions of dollars. As I see it, there MUST
be more construction and work on it. Unfortunetly, stupid
politicians are apparently too dumb to get this simple
fact of life.

As for the shuttle, well, it sucks too... Something that
costs half a billion per launch in the 21st century - must. :wink:
What's even worse is that NASA practicly threw away
several more billions in the last decade instead of actually
building a new and better large shuttle. What is even
further worse is that they now want to throw away a few
more billions to build a space-taxy (the OSP) with hardly
any cargo capability - something performed today by
russian launch vehicles at low costs and with one of the
best safety records in the space industry (and if NASA, as
ussual in the past decade, fails - it will still be done using
those Russian vehicles).

Now, I don't know WHAT these people are thinking and WHY
do they throw away so much money and only accept projects
when they're as safe as a jet flight. But, maybe it's time
they changed their perspective just a tiny little bit...
Otherwise, the next space-station will be privately owned
and the first man on Mars will be a space-enthusiast
owning a space technology company. Exploration is supposed
to be dangerous and exciting, if you're afraid of failure
and wan'na spend years designing bulkhead screws - stay home
and stay down.

Live long and prosper.
 
Originally posted by Carlos Hernandez
My opinion: if it can be done, then do it, period. Technology is my religion: I don't need a flat screen TV, but I will get one anyway because it's new and better, more sophisticated technology. No other justification is needed for me.
To some extent, I agree.
 

Njorl

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I haven't weighed the technical merits, but I will discuss them abstractly. Money is limited. If there is not much to be gained by building the proposed station, it should not be built. It would be better to spend the money on something more productive now, and build a genuinely useful space station later. We are not going to get another one any time soon, so if this one is useless, we will have no useful space station for a very long time.

Njorl
 
Kill the ISS for sure.
What was supposed to be an INTERNATIONAL venture, has become primarily funded by the USA.
It's no more than a reason to keep the shuttle in service, which in itself is due for an overhaul.
 

Phobos

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As you might suspect, I love the space program (which is of course much more than just the ISS). But I tend to agree that the ISS and shuttle programs are floundering. They lack purpose. Unmanned rockets can do better than the shuttle in just about everything except getting several people into low earth orbit to do work. (Which kind of makes the shuttle-ISS cycle a self-perpetuating thing, doesn't it?) The purpose of the ISS has not be clearly defined...but it could be quickly if we decided to get humans out of Earth orbit again (something we have not done in like 30 years). In that case, the ISS becomes very useful for studying the long-term effects of space travel on people and the shuttle is useful for getting folks to the ISS. (Of course, as mentioned, the shuttle program is aging and needs improvement/replacement...which is another of NASA's programs.) So, while other nations (Japan, India, China) are eyeing the moon, let's go to Mars!

The Mars, Outer Planets, and Discovery/Explorer (deep space) programs rock my world. The Earth Observing program is cool too.

For now, I'm glad to see that the ISS is fostering some sort of international cooperation, albeit limited. International cooperation will be very helpful for expanding space programs in the future.
 

drag

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Greetings !
Originally posted by Phobos
The purpose of the ISS has not be clearly defined...but it could be quickly if we decided to get humans out of Earth orbit again (something we have not done in like 30 years).
Well, if I'm not mistaken that was one of the many
purposes of the ISS as well as a huge amount of
research in all fields. The problem is that none
of it is being done because it's unfinished and the
crews are insufficient to spend any real time doing
actual research.

The interplanetary missions rock my world too, but if
there's not enough funding to finish the ISS or relativly
quickly build a new massive manned lauch vehicle - it
seems hopeless to expect funding ot the scale that's
required for such missions.
Originally posted by Phobos
Kill the ISS for sure.
What was supposed to be an INTERNATIONAL venture, has become primarily funded by the USA.
Well, most of us space enthusiasts want mankind in space,
no matter what their color/race/nationality/religion(prefferably
none ) is. Maybe, your country should build a space
station just for its citizens, then you'd have a chance. :wink:

Live long and prosper.
 

Phobos

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Originally posted by drag
Well, if I'm not mistaken that was one of the many
purposes of the ISS as well as a huge amount of
research in all fields. The problem is that none
of it is being done because it's unfinished and the
crews are insufficient to spend any real time doing
actual research.
I think it was Carl Sagan who pointed out that there isn't any particular new science to be done on the ISS outside of testing human capabilities in space.

The interplanetary missions rock my world too, but if
there's not enough funding to finish the ISS or relativly
quickly build a new massive manned lauch vehicle - it
seems hopeless to expect funding ot the scale that's
required for such missions.
Manned missions you mean? On that, you may be right. But the robotic missions can still be cost effective.

Well, most of us space enthusiasts want mankind in space...
What you are responding to here was not a quote from me! It's phatmonky that wants to kill the ISS.
 

Nereid

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space programs YES; ISS - why?

In terms of bang for buck it's hard to see how the ISS (and Shuttle) could be anywhere near the top of the list. Even SelfAdjoint's very valid point of getting and keeping public support ... there are plenty of ways to do that better than multiple $billions spent on the ISS.

Why not encourage private efforts? There are enough rich guys (they're all guys) who'd love a new toy, or the buzz of flying to the Moon (think of Branson and balloons), or that a trip into space would give a great ROI as publicity, or ...

Can you think of a better way for the dotcom billionaires (yes, there are quite a few) to spend their ill-gotten gains?

Maybe we could forgive Bernie his Worldcom sins if he flew his own rocket to Mars?
 

selfAdjoint

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Read Heinlein's old story "The Man who Sold the Moon". It captures the present atmosphere accurately in a fictional setting, although Heinlein saw that atmosphere as the first attempt to get to the Moon, not the second.

BTW my take on the President's initative, it's just another episode in the Karl Rove two-headline a week program. That was Rove's tactic before 9/11 and he seems to have gone back to it for the election year. Don't expect anything to come of any of these intitiatives. They're just sound-byte material. The Mars plan has carefully planted poison pills (starve all space science to concentrate funding on the Mars program) to make sure it doesn't pass Congress.
 

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