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$100 billion ISS investment to turn into blazing fireball and ultimately end up in the Pacific Ocean

The International Space Station (ISS) has been orbiting the Earth at a distance of about 220 miles for years. The ISS has seen its share of problems and budget cuts over the years that have resulted in a somewhat neutered space station.

Michael T. Suffredini, the NASA space station program manager, has announced that despite the fact that the ISS is only now nearing completion, there are already plans to de-orbit the station. The last of the components for the ISS are set to be in place next year and according to Suffredini, the station is currently planned to crash back to Earth in 2016.

"In the first quarter of 2016, we'll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft," said Suffredini.

The real problem is the lack of long term funding for the ISS, which has been estimated to have cost the U.S. and its partners $100 billion to construct. Ironically, the huge cost of the station could end up being its saving grace.

Senator Bill Nelson said, "If we've spent a hundred billion dollars, I don't think we want to shut it down in 2015."

Nelson told the Washington Post, "My opinion is it would be a travesty to de-orbit this thing. If we get rid of this darned thing in 2015, we're going to cede our leadership in human exploration."

The Washington Post reports that there is no official lobbying going on to extend the ISS' mission, but NASA is conducting a review of the station to see what it would take to extend the operation of the ISS through the late 2020's.

With the space shuttle fleet retiring at the end of 2010, astronauts will only be able to reach the ISS aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. NASA will reportedly pay Russia $51 million for each manned launch to the ISS.

Hubble senior project scientist David Leckrone said, "Whether it (the ISS) was a great investment or not to begin with, having made that investment, I think it's imperative for the United States to extract value -- real, honest-to-God scientific value -- out of that investment."

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Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By Fox5 on 7/14/2009 11:55:24 AM , Rating: 5
Seriously, it seems like NASA is scaling back on everything but satellites and probes. What happened to the cutting edge organization that did nearly impossible feats?

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By akosixiv on 7/14/2009 12:00:56 PM , Rating: 5
its getting budget cuts

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By Oregonian2 on 7/14/2009 3:24:56 PM , Rating: 2
No added "job-creation" money?

By dever on 7/15/2009 4:25:53 PM , Rating: 1
While nearly every other $100 billion spent by the US recently is even a worse use of money than this, it's too bad that it isn't as obviously foolish as building a giant edifice and torching it.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By AshT on 7/14/2009 3:54:01 PM , Rating: 4
I would prefer they spent money on the ISS and even turned it into a space hotel or whatever than spend the billions on nukes and so-called defence.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By TSS on 7/14/2009 9:15:46 PM , Rating: 5
i have an even better idea.

at the end of its life, whenever that might be, sell it to the private sector (in other words anybody willing to pick it up).

why let it burn in the atmosphere if somebody can still make use of it?

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By camylarde on 7/15/2009 5:18:04 AM , Rating: 2
Intellectual property? So many countries contributed to the research and build up, that there is no private entity that would not like to bid for this station even to study it. Of course not many private firms would be able to actually utilize and fund the continued operation, but say, how would you like if say Microsoft got his hands on the space technology, neatly packed and working? I say a very nasty monopoly would emerge directly form the fact that somebody got his hands on ISS. And rather not speaking about if that company would be of Iran or North Korean origin...

By delphinus100 on 7/15/2009 1:40:57 PM , Rating: 5
"Microsoft got his hands on the space technology, neatly packed and working? I say a very nasty monopoly would emerge directly form the fact that somebody got his hands on ISS."

Are you saying that all ISS technology is unique to the station? (like its computer's operating systems) And that all the private contractors who actually built everything that went into ISS will have forgotten what they've made, lost all record of the technology, don't know what they're giving up and the only example would be the orbiting hardware itself?

Besides, as Microsoft knows better than most, to sell something is not necessarily to give up all IP rights to it.

"And rather not speaking about if that company would be of Iran or North Korean origin..."

Where is it written that it has to be sold to just anybody?

And would they do with it that's necessarily threatening? This is a research station, not the Death Star...

If this 'company' has the means to launch humans into orbit to reach it, they already can do manned reconnaissance and possibly orbital weapons. We started worrying about the military implications of Soviet space capability right after Sputnik-1, not after Salyut-1, their first space station.

By TSS on 7/15/2009 9:44:44 PM , Rating: 2
i would rather see iran ending up owning the ISS, then letting a 100 billion dollar piece of technology burn and drop into the sea.

if only on principle. it's not like they could do anything with it anyway.

personally though, i'd like to see them sell it to Virgin galactic to become the first true space hotel. that would also set them up with the tech to do it again, only more cheaply and efficiently.

a monopoly in a market is always better then not having that market at all.

By Brandon Hill (blog) on 7/14/2009 12:07:21 PM , Rating: 5
Probably a lack of public involvement from NASA, a lack of media interest, and a general lack of knowledge about what the heck we actually do up there in the ISS in the first place. There's no "face", there's no "brand", there's no "end game".

With the moon missions, that was pretty simple. Spirit and Opportunity had an "end game" to Mars and a public "face". The two little rovers were basically celebrities.

With the ISS, there's just none of that. But that's just my "commoner" viewpoint.

I guess Bob Slydell said it best: "What would you say ya do here ?"

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By fishbits on 7/14/2009 12:44:36 PM , Rating: 5
Agreed. Seems every time I hear from the ISS, the crew is doing something trivial. "We're watching an ant farm... in space! We're growing geraniums... in space! We're studying the mechanics of brushing teeth... in space!" The way the ISS is presented to the public is that the point of the station and its crew being in space is... to be in space. Now it's time to do a video conference with a middle school to tell the kids that, yes, it's neat to be in space.

If real, important science is being done, great. But cluing in the public that's funding it would be a really smart thing to do. Otherwise it's hard to tell the crew and their work from the Richard Garriotts who go up to say "Cool, we're in space!"

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By Chernobyl68 on 7/14/2009 4:21:49 PM , Rating: 5
a lot of zero G experience gained in near orbit will help plan interplanetary missions in the solar systems. It may seem trivial now, but when you're halfway to mars, I'd want to know everything had been covered.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By Solandri on 7/14/2009 8:35:54 PM , Rating: 5
That doesn't really answer the question. It just shifts the question from, "Why do you want to keep people in orbit?" to "Why do you want to send people to Mars?" And I don't consider "Because it's there!" to be a valid answer to a proposition which would cost a significant fraction of the nation's GDP.

Our robotic missions yield much more scientific return per dollar spent. Spirit and Opportunity have so far come in at just under $1 billion in cost for their 6 years of operation. A single shuttle mission typically costs $1-$1.5 billion. I daresay if we had been spending money more on science and engineering and less on pipe dreams involving putting people up in space, we'd be much further along in our knowledge of the universe, our solar system, space travel, and propulsion technologies.

At some point, what's practical and most effective needs to take precedence over what sounds cool. Once we've developed launch technologies and space propulsion to where it's relatively cheap (instead of hundreds of millions of $ per person), only then we should start researching the effects of long-term space travel on humans. To do it the other way is putting the cart before the horse. Literally.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By FaaR on 7/15/2009 9:04:49 AM , Rating: 1
Dollars schmollars.

While you may deem robotic missions to be more cost-effective, there's only so much you can do with robots. You send a probe towards mars, it stops responding on the way over there. Another probe shoots past the planet like a comet because someone effed up their imperial to metrics conversion ratios. The next probe crashes and burns on re-entry.

The probe that DOES land there works flawlessly for months until the boffins on earth see something interesting, then go: "gee whiz, I wish our probe could do THAT, so we could check this weird stuff out!", and the probe simply isn't equipped for it. Meanwhile, an astronaut actually there on the spot could do a bit of hands-on improv, and blammo, there's your result.

The rovers may have run for half a decade on a billion dollars, but ultimately they've accomplished close to nothing of any real importance, because they're only the size of a shoebox each and their range and abilities are extremely limited. If you keep your eyes about three inches off the ground like with the rovers, you end up seeing...well, not very much, really.

So yeah, we do need "pipe dreams", and we do need people in space, so that we can one day colonize our moon, mars, and other worlds. Staying earthbound forever because people of limited vision think it's too expensive to reach out is only going to get us extinct as a species. It may take a while but it'll happen eventually (not that long perhaps if we keep consuming our finite resources at constantly increasing rates like we've been doing for the last 100+ years), and then that's all she wrote for mankind.

Yea, it'll cost money. However we've got money, more than enough actually. If we taxed 50% of the profits of the earth's major corporations we could easily have a fleet of nuclear-drive equipped spacecraft inside 20 years ready to set up our first martian colony, and the only "cost" is some already rich fucks will be a little less richer than they would have been otherwise.

Money is supposed to be a TOOL TO GET SHIT DONE. It's not meant to be piled up high and not spent because "that would cost money". Well, duh!

By JediJeb on 7/15/2009 1:28:29 PM , Rating: 5
I agree. A lot of the people who complain about how much it costs with no return benefit are the same people who go spend a bunch of money on a boat that they put in the water maybe twice a year, or a motorhome they use once each summer and then let it sit gathering dust until next year.

Even if the ISS were to be that boat or camper, then why isn't the scientific community deserving of its toys just like every other person is? But it only seems like a toy for those who aren't working on it everyday. We will never really know all that is discovered by having it up there, because most if the data aquired there would be boring and meaningless to the average person. Just because what is learned from it won't make front page news doesn't mean it isn't important. Something as simple as having the wrong grease in a joint used in space could end up saving lives somewhere down the line. Sometimes the most trivial things end up being of great importance in the right situation later on.

By Fiendish on 7/16/2009 1:47:30 AM , Rating: 4
Sending people to Mars does not have to be about scientific benefit in the direct sense. A massive benefit of the moon landings was the awe and inspiration it gave to millions of people. Who knows how many children became interested in science as a consequence?

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By MrBlastman on 7/14/2009 12:12:36 PM , Rating: 4
Because it is more important for our Supreme Savior of the Government to try and give us all National Health Care, Government Jobs, take over all our companies and most important of all - hold our hands as we cross the street and tuck each of us into bed at night - rather than focus on conquering the universe.

Yeah - I call that "vision." *Looks up into the air above looking to the left and right repeatedly while babbling nonsense*

What a colossal waste of taxpayer money. They should just have given me .001% of that 100 billion and I would have shown them how to properly waste it.

By EricMartello on 7/15/2009 3:42:28 PM , Rating: 4
What a colossal waste of taxpayer money. They should just have given me .001% of that 100 billion and I would have shown them how to properly waste it.

By going to an all-Apple computing environment?

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By MozeeToby on 7/14/2009 12:40:52 PM , Rating: 5
Don't get too excited, this reeks of political brinkmanship to me.

As in, "If you don't increase our funding we're going to be 'forced' to decommission the ISS, I'm sure your constituents will love all the money that was wasted on it". In other words, it's somewhere between a desperate plea for funding and all out blackmail.

To answer your question though, sending computers and robots out into space is just so much more cost efficient that it makes sense for 95% of the missions that NASA does. There was a time when NASA's mandate was to push the envelope and develop new technologies, that time has long passed.

Today, NASA is one part science and one part civil engineering, which is all boosting satellites into orbit really is when you get down to it. A big part of the whole "let's go to Mars" idea was to put the romance back into it, let NASA push boundaries again. They're still in the gearing up stages of new Moon/Mars effort, so only time will tell if NASA still knows how to do it.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By knutjb on 7/14/2009 2:37:25 PM , Rating: 5
If they keep using the Russians the price will continue to go up and the public will get angry at the WH for that embarrassment. If they kill off the ISS then they don't have to use the Russians or build a replacement for the space shuttle. Then they can pull that money back and spend it on social welfare programs letting current NASA obligations languish.

What a nice kick in the teeth to the Japanese who have a very expensive ISS module sitting in a space shuttle waiting for clear weather to launch.

Yes this is a politically driven mess. The pot of money at NASA is way too big to ignore. When you can't fund your campaign promises through raising taxes you dig through the budget until you come across enough projects to kill so you can fund your political promises. I don't think this is NASA saying give us more money or else, I think it's the White House saying were un-funding you x amount so cut your budget this way and you figure out the details. I have seen this happen in government before on a small scale, tens of millions. After experiencing how the machine works this is the same only in billions.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By Donkeyshins on 7/14/2009 4:40:50 PM , Rating: 3
How on Earth (pun intended) is the state of the Space Shuttle program in any way, shape, or form the problem of the current administration? NASA has been planning on retiring the Shuttle fleet for quite a while and has been quite forthcoming about their plans.

Also, as a point of argument, the White House doesn't control the budget, the Congress does - blame the proper people. And Congress is trying to provide additional funding ($10B) to extend the Shuttle program until the replacement Orion system is ready in 2014.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By Suntan on 7/14/2009 5:19:34 PM , Rating: 5
How on Earth (pun intended) is the state of the Space Shuttle program in any way, shape, or form the problem of the current administration?

They are in charge. The buck stops with them. Whether they caused, someone else did, or nobody did; they are responsible for making the best out of it (and responsible for making a shite of it.)

Honestly, it’s not that hard. It’s called leadership.

Sad that people have seen so little of it lately that they don’t even know it by name.


By Donkeyshins on 7/14/2009 6:53:54 PM , Rating: 2
I could / should have phrased the question differently in my original post. It would have made more sense if I had substituted "fault" for "problem".

Decisions to reprioritize the mission of NASA happened before the current administration took office 6 months ago.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By maven81 on 7/14/2009 7:28:19 PM , Rating: 2
Where are you pulling this from again? It says right in the article that the Russians are charging 51 million per flight. We've argued here about the cost of a shuttle launch before, but most would agree it's at least 500 million. The price would have to go up 10 times just to reach the shuttle!
In other words keeping the shuttle would be a mistake, but guess what, the administration was contemplating to keep it flying longer, that's pretty much exactly what you want!

Moreover, this administration hates NASA so much that they gave them more money?! Go look at the budget proposal, including the fact that some of the stimulus money went to NASA as well. Now you could say it's lip service, barely breaking even with inflation, but to say that they are trying to take money out would be an outright lie.

Now getting back to the article... Does NASA really have that kind of say in this project anyway? Considering some of the modules are Russian and some are Japanese, I don't see how they could claim to control the entire station. What if say the Japanese don't want their module deorbited? Is NASA really going to say "nope, we can't let you undock your module!" Seems hard to believe. And even if they did, the Russians could simply refuse to fly Americans to the station, making it their station... They would call NASA's bluff.
As such I agree with the person that said this is probably an attempt to blackmail the administration into more funding.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By jon1003 on 7/14/2009 7:56:56 PM , Rating: 2
maven81: It may cost 10x as much to launch the shuttle, but you get to bring MUCH OVER 10x as much crap up to space with you.

By maven81 on 7/15/2009 11:15:59 AM , Rating: 2
You're right, but that capability has been used far too infrequently to justify the cost. If every flight carried a ton of cargo I'd agree with you. But there have been only a handful. Seems a large majority of the flights are simply ferrying people into space. And if you want to launch cargo it's not necessary to have a manned spacecraft to do that.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By Triple Omega on 7/14/2009 9:59:11 PM , Rating: 5
I'm not just amazed that NASA seems to claim the sole right to the International Space Station's future decommission decisions, but also that none of the other parties involved are even mentioned in the article with the exception of "U.S. and its partners".

The last sentence of the article really sums it up perfectly: "I think it's imperative for the United States to extract value -- real, honest-to-God scientific value -- out of that investment"

I really thought this was an international effort. Seems more like the American Space Station by NASA..... and it's partners. And americans keep wondering why the rest of the world thinks their nation has an ego-problem when it comes to international relations?!

If they keep spending just two very impersonal words per article on partner-nations that co-invest billions , I don't see that viewpoint changing anytime soon. Would it really kill them to mention the other agencies involved in the project and that they also were involved in setting the current decommission date?

The whole childish "I made it.... and they helped too." thing is really not doing the USA any good internationally.

By Qi on 7/15/2009 11:57:36 AM , Rating: 2
I agree completely, and it's not something new either. The Hubble Space Telescope, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), Cassini–Huygens, etc, are all very much portraited as NASA only missions, but in fact, these are all joint projects of international cooperation. I doubt many people even know that the ESA owns part of the Hubble, it's as if it is an American only telescope.

By Shig on 7/14/2009 1:11:19 PM , Rating: 3
Multi-trillion dollar debt ftw.

RE: Are we shutting down NASA or something?
By AntiM on 7/14/09, Rating: 0
By mvpx02 on 7/14/2009 6:42:08 PM , Rating: 3
The ISS experiences too much atmospheric drag in its operational orbit to be left unattended. It requires fairly frequent (about once a month) adjustments/boosts to maintain altitude.

Obviously, because of its size, the ISS cannot be allowed to simply fall out of orbit just anywhere since rather large pieces of it are likely to survive the fall to earth intact. The second (and usually unmentioned) risk inherent in allowing the craft to crash back to earth without preparation is addressed in the decomissioning of the space craft:
"In the first quarter of 2016, we'll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft," said Suffredini.

The ISS is full of chemicals and compounds that we'd prefer not be released into the atmosphere. Just like when the Navy prepares to sink retired ships, the ISS will need to be stripped of anything potentially hazardous (or anything of value).

Also, I'm sure they'll have a very-specific de-orbiting procedure that they follow. Among other things, they probably intend to break the modules appart to some extent, as well as to skip the ISS (either as a whole or in parts) through the atmosphere as much as possible prior to final re-entry.

All of that being said, as you (and others) have suggested I do suspect that this announcement is designed to garner public support.

By Skott on 7/14/2009 2:42:46 PM , Rating: 1
In my opinion if they decommission it and let it drop down into the ocean like they say in the article then NASA and Congress will find it really hard to get the American public support,for future space exploration projects. 100 Billion dollars and little to show for it? But then again maybe it like some here suggest and its a play from NASA to get more funding? Kinda a sad situation if you ask me.

By Sazar on 7/14/2009 3:04:15 PM , Rating: 5
If only NASA was GM or AIG and either sold crappy products or pipe dreams instead of providing tangible benefits over the duration of it's existence.

By JimboK29 on 7/17/2009 10:11:47 PM , Rating: 2
Once Barry realizes that Nasa helps the nation, he'll cut their programs.

Should Never have built it.
By Lastfreethinker on 7/14/2009 2:20:42 PM , Rating: 1
the ISS should never have been built in the first place. It was, and is a massive waste of time and money. That money should have been put toward a moon base, a single stage orbiter not Apollo SE. Heck you could been developing systems to actually bring an asteroid in and make a permanent space station. NASA has wasted and squander public funds far too long. A new agency is needed that will actually make progress and get man out into the solar system.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By hduser on 7/14/2009 2:35:36 PM , Rating: 2
Out of the Solar System? It's just not possible with current technology. Voyager and Pioneer launched over 30 years ago is just experiencing heliopause and interstellar space with gravity assist. Unless we can discover a way to fold space/time, it's just not happening. That's why it's called space, there just lots of it.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By AssBall on 7/14/2009 3:33:54 PM , Rating: 2
He did say INTO the solar system, to clarify.

I agree the ISS is a solar powered piece of expensive junk compared to what we Should have up there.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By hduser on 7/14/2009 4:59:31 PM , Rating: 2
My bad, I misread it. Still, humans are poorly suited to travel in space much less in low earth orbit. There's just too much radiation. Unless we can come up with way to cut travel time, cut weight and rad harden spacecraft, it would take a tremendous amount of resources just to do 2 out of the 3 things I mentioned.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By Jedi2155 on 7/14/2009 9:22:52 PM , Rating: 2
Those are the problems, and problems that we should overcome. With money, its a lot easier to overcome such problems, and that is what the NASA we romanticize about is suppose to do. Throw a bunch of money at a problem, and we get a bunch of technology that may or may not solve the original goal but at least it'll help to make us all fatter and lazier.

I love my velcro shoes.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By Qi on 7/14/2009 2:42:58 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that the ISS should never have been built, it's indeed a massive waste of money, and with 100 billion we could have built dozens of Mars exploration rovers and countless space telescopes to study our surroundings.

I'd have to say though, the same is true for a moon base. Building a moon base is incredibly expensive and from a scientific viewpoint it's better and more cost effective to explore space with robotic explorers and telescopes.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By FITCamaro on 7/14/2009 3:34:03 PM , Rating: 2
Both of you are idiots. We have learned a lot about how crystals develop in space and other experiments on the ISS. Both a space station and a moon base are needed. The space station as jumping off point to get to the moon. And the moon as a jumping off point for Mars.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By Qi on 7/14/2009 4:56:54 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't say that the ISS is completely useless, I'm saying that we could have done a lot more science with that 100 billion. Putting humans into space is incredibly expensive and risky and it's better to just send robotic explorers and telescopes up there. Given the choice between a space station or numerous robotic explorers, space/ground telescopes and research satellites, for me, the choice is clear.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By Lastfreethinker on 7/15/2009 1:14:04 AM , Rating: 2
I do not agree with probes, and robots. It is basically a form of expensive voyeurism. Probes also can only do what they are programmed to do and so if we discover something we have to make another probe and hope the discovery is still there.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By Qi on 7/15/09, Rating: 0
By Lastfreethinker on 7/15/2009 10:54:20 AM , Rating: 2
There are in environment where probes would be required, yes. However down the line we need to get our own two feet out there and actually explore. You can send as many damn probes as you want, but you will never the quality of a sending a human. Yes it is expensive, yes it is dangerous. What is really most expensive is wasting all this time and money on something we do not need and delaying what we should be doing. Basically everything we have been doing since Apollo is just foreplay. Well screw the 40 years of foreplay and let us get down to the good stuff now.

Probes are restricted by their tools as well, also their programing. BTW it isn't like we are sending superprobes into space that can do any sort of experiment. Take Spirit, it could only analyze rocks, what if we actually found a sapling, or the start of a tiny little plant. It would be a bust. We would have to spend money on another probe designed to analyze plant matter (what we think is plant matter). Then send it all the while taking...what 4 or 5 years. Hoping that the thing doesn't die while we do this? If a human was sent no problem. Not to mention the start of a new colony, cause that is really the ultimate goal, to get humanity onto two planets, and eventually other solar systems.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By FaaR on 7/15/2009 1:00:39 PM , Rating: 2
That it's expensive to put people in space is not in doubt, but it's going to be neccessary if we ever want to leave our own ball of mud. How are we going to accomplish travel to other worlds unless we do the basic science first? We can't just hope that some day Montgomery Scott will be born and come up with an interstellar transporter pad that'll teleport us wherever we want to go!

As for risky, there's more people on this planet than we know what to do with. Without sounding too flippant/callous, if some astronaut blows up in an accident, there's easily a hundred million willing replacements out there.

Tons more people have died in professional boxing than from accidents related to space exploration, and arguably with far less impact on the sum total of human knowledge, yet why aren't we shutting down boxing tournaments then? Basically anything worthwile and cutting-edge will have an element of danger to it. You reaching for the "risky" card is just plain pathetic. It's dangerous crossing a busy street intersection, will you stay on your side for the rest of your life?

RE: Should Never have built it.
By Qi on 7/16/2009 6:05:51 AM , Rating: 2
If space colonization is our goal, we have to find places capable of supporting life first. Finding these places is best done with telescopes and robotic explorers. Take the COROT and Kepler missions for example, if we'd spend the 100 billion on missions like these our chances of finding an Earth like planet would have gone up tremendously.

And I'm not against taking risks, I'm against taking unnecessary risks. Machines can do nearly everything that humans can in space and much more. It's absolutely unnecessary - at this time - to send humans into space.

In the far future, with some luck millions of years from now, we have to leave Earth eventually if we want to survive, but in the meantime, it's best to explore our surroundings with machines and telescopes. And to be completely honest, our chances of surviving indefinitely are pretty slim anyway.

RE: Should Never have built it.
By Lastfreethinker on 7/15/2009 1:33:30 AM , Rating: 2
It isn't that I think we don't need a space station we don't need an ISS. We need an actual space station. I agree a space station is very useful for getting further out into the system. My problem is the ISS is none of that. It is purely a research station and a reason to launch the shuttle on a frequent basis. If we were to have the kind of space station we need it would have facilities for ship production. It would have multiple science labs and artificial gravity, along with telescopes and radio telescopes. We could launch missions from it to retrieve and repair satellites, etc. I do also believe we need a moon base, as a start for a colony, and a H3 mine. A cool benefit of a moon base would be a radio telescope on the dark side so that it has no interference from Earth. It isn't that I think we don't need these things, it is that I think we need useful versions of them. Why build an outhouse when you can build a bathroom with running water?

RE: Should Never have built it.
By Divineburner on 7/15/2009 7:46:31 AM , Rating: 2
You meant the further side of the moon, the dark side of the moon constantly changes.

I think we could have some nice telescopes at the different Lagrange points, it'd cost much lesser than a moon base.

By Lastfreethinker on 7/15/2009 11:02:45 AM , Rating: 2
If you have the colony and facilities there taking a rover to repair it would make it much cheaper to maintain then having to send a ship. Besides, those L-Points would serve better as a Space Station and various other facilities then just a radio antennae Actually I meant the far side, as the dark side is used to refer to the far side, because it is seen from our perspective. However yes you are right I meant the far side.

By marvdmartian on 7/14/2009 4:38:31 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, but without the ISS, how will we ever spot the Klingons around Uranus????

By DigitalFreak on 7/14/2009 12:01:20 PM , Rating: 3
Didn't they just finish building the thing last year? Ridiculous.

RE: What?
By FITCamaro on 7/14/2009 12:14:05 PM , Rating: 2
They're finishing building it next year. So they're basically gonna use it fully completed for 5 years and destroy it. Pathetic.

If this doesn't reak of Obama cutting funding I don't know what does. If we do this we'll basically be back to where we were in 1950. No orbiting space station. No serious push for space exploration and development.

Gotta free up those funds for universal health care and every other entitlement they can think of in the future.

RE: What?
By chmilz on 7/14/2009 12:22:12 PM , Rating: 5
Woops, my brand new car just went through its first tank of gas and I cut my personal fuel budget... better drive it into the lake.

RE: What?
By omnicronx on 7/14/2009 12:33:49 PM , Rating: 4
If this doesn't reak of Obama cutting funding I don't know what does.
Read the original article, from the sounds of it they are picking moon travel over the ISS whose original function was to have a place for the space shuttle to go (which in 2010 will not longer exist). Obama made cuts that I do not agree with, but had he not made these cuts this decision would have probably been the same anyways. Traveling to the moon is far more interesting to the average joe than a space station that 95%+ of the people have no idea what purpose it actually serves. Furthermore as the article states, most of the funding was cut earlier in the decade, not by Obama, i.e this decision was in the makings for a long time, as it was Bush's Vision to travel to the moon and not Obamas.

All of this being said, I really doubt they are going to let a 100 billion dollar project fall to the ground. From the sounds of it, NASA is trying to put pressure on the current administration.

RE: What?
By FITCamaro on 7/14/09, Rating: 0
RE: What?
By threepac3 on 7/14/2009 1:32:38 PM , Rating: 3
Oops my shoe lace broke must be Obamas fault.

RE: What?
By FastangLX on 7/14/2009 4:24:53 PM , Rating: 4
No, it is Bush's fault. Get it right!

RE: What?
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 7/14/2009 1:43:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I got some family backstage. Course my family's nuts; they're crazy. Yep. My uncle Leo, I had lunch with him the other day, he's one of these guys that anything goes wrong in life, he blames it on anti-Semitism. You know what I mean, the spaghetti's not al dente? Cook's an anti-Semite. Loses a bet on a horse. Secretariat? Anti-Semitic. Doesn't get a good seat at the temple. Rabbi? Anti-Semite.

RE: What?
By Donkeyshins on 7/14/2009 4:44:06 PM , Rating: 2
If this doesn't reak of Obama cutting funding I don't know what does. If we do this we'll basically be back to where we were in 1950. No orbiting space station. No serious push for space exploration and development.

You need to go back to remedial social studies. Congress controls the budget, not the executive branch. If you are going to irrationally blame the government for something that occurred in the past , at least blame the proper branch of government. It'll save on you looking like a jackass and will save on people responding to you and using up all our precious electrons.

Sad days for NASA
By stlrenegade on 7/14/2009 11:48:38 AM , Rating: 5
With the space shuttle fleet retiring at the end of 2010, astronauts will only be able to reach the ISS aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. NASA will reportedly pay Russia $51 million for each manned launch to the ISS.

Never thought I'd see the day where the United States would need to hitchhike into outer space.

RE: Sad days for NASA
By cochy on 7/14/2009 12:03:20 PM , Rating: 5
Arthur C. Clark had them doing just that in 2010.

RE: Sad days for NASA
By MozeeToby on 7/14/2009 12:56:44 PM , Rating: 4
Clark was making a point about Cold War tensions and the value of international cooperation. It's worth noting that Clark was one of few sci-fi writers at the time that didn't write based on the assumption that global nuclear war would occur.

As someone with no real memories of the Cold War, and born well after the worst of the fear was over, it is somewhat fascinating to me to read all sci-fi of that era.

RE: Sad days for NASA
By FITCamaro on 7/14/2009 12:15:41 PM , Rating: 1
Yeah well soon we won't even be hitchhiking.

We'll turn space over to China. Like everything else.

RE: Sad days for NASA
By MrBlastman on 7/14/2009 12:28:47 PM , Rating: 3
Perhaps we should just schedule the earth for galactic demolition now to make room for the trans-galactic thoroughfare.

At least we'd get the last laugh... for a few minutes.

RE: Sad days for NASA
By mvpx02 on 7/14/2009 5:48:33 PM , Rating: 4
So long and thanks for all the fish!

Give it away
By nafhan on 7/14/2009 12:37:12 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with the physicist, Park, from the original article. If we can't afford to keep it in orbit, give it away! Preferabely it would go to (in order) Japan, the EU, or Russia, but even China would be better than just burning it up in the atmosphere.
It makes me sad to see a huge investment like that tossed in the trash.

RE: Give it away
By Donovan on 7/14/2009 1:16:59 PM , Rating: 2
Or we could just put it up on Ebay.

RE: Give it away
By Parhel on 7/14/2009 3:34:41 PM , Rating: 3
Maybe The Pirate Bay will buy it and move there.

RE: Give it away
By nafhan on 7/15/2009 8:33:58 AM , Rating: 2
A space based data haven. I like that idea... Sounds like something from Neal Stephenson.

RE: Give it away
By vapore0n on 7/14/2009 1:26:51 PM , Rating: 4
what? To hell with that. If I cant play with my toys then no one will.

</bratty little voice>

RE: Give it away
By ColonelCabbage on 7/14/2009 4:02:13 PM , Rating: 1
Does it actually cost anything to keep it in orbit? Can't they just leave it there unmanned until they decide what to do with it / have more money?

RE: Give it away
By trisct on 7/14/2009 4:35:11 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, it costs. The ISS is too close to the atmosphere to just leave it alone up there. It experiences enough drag so that its orbit decays relatively rapidly (remember the cheesy 60s era Star Trek episodes).

It needs periodic boosting to keep its altitude, and that creates other needs like gyro stabilization to keep the rockets pointed, which creates mechanical maintenance needs, which creates manning needs, which creates life support needs, which means either it gets operated more or less fully, or we crash it into the sea to avoid having it fall on China when the orbit decays too far to control it.

RE: Give it away
By ianweck on 7/14/2009 9:26:42 PM , Rating: 2
Naw, they should keep it and turn it into a hotel. I guarantee that would make money, if people are lining up to buy tickets just to ride a rocket to the edge of space.

By goz314 on 7/14/2009 12:42:24 PM , Rating: 5
I know that the program manager mentioned in this article is just basing his comments on the budgets which have been approved and are part of Nasa's LRP, but making statements like we will "de-orbit" the entire spacecraft despite unmentioned contractual obligations to the ESA, Russia, and Japan is not only un-professional, it's grandstanding. Nasa would first have to purchase all of the hardware attached to the station that it doesn't own before being able to carry through on any de-orbit plans. Furthermore, the only station component capable of performing any orbital maneuvers other than orientation/rotation is the Russian service module. Good luck issuing commands to that module from a terminal in Houston. ;-)

I have to agree with the article's assessment that the ISS has essentially turned into a giant engineering project. Despite it's original charter to become a true orbiting lab, it seems as though no new meaningful research by NASA will be conducted there without additional funding commitments. One thing this article ignores, however, is the possibility of obtaining that funding from the private sector. It also completely ignores the research projects that the other partner nations are planning to conduct.

As self-important an organization as NASA is in the eye of the American public, it does not have the final say on the fate of the ISS. If NASA can no longer fund or support the ISS, then the government should just sell or lease its portion of the station to the other partner nations.

RE: Unlikely...
By Qi on 7/14/2009 2:23:33 PM , Rating: 3
Exactly what I was thinking. The NASA doesn't own the ISS and they can't solely decide what happens with it. If the NASA wants to de-orbit the international space station in 2016, they have to talk to the other contributors first.

RE: Unlikely...
By mvpx02 on 7/14/2009 7:47:51 PM , Rating: 2
These countries all knew going into this project that the ISS would have a relatively short shelf-life. Design work on the ISS began in the early 1990's, and it was never really intended to operate long past the mid 2010's.... what would be the sense in dedicating all of the the extra money and research required to design and build a space station (specifically a scientific research facility) that could last 40 years instead of 20 years?

I know that if I were working on it in 1995, I'd would have hoped that they would be at least considering something new 20 years later, it would be depressing to think that in 2035, they hadn't come up with enough advances in technology in the previous 40 years to warrant a new space station.

It's one thing to build a big lab, make it as future-proof as possible and hope it lasts a long time, but this is a space ship we're talking about. The technology of the "facility" is changing as fast as the science and research being conducted inside.

Also, the benefit of investing the most money and doing the most work on the ISS is that NASA has final say on ISS-related decisions. I can't imagine there being a scenerio where NASA decides to "take its ball and go home", but that is an option.

Despite what some delusional American voters and politicians have apparently begun to believe recently, in this universe the needs of the majority outweigh the needs of the few.

If NASA can't afford the continuing overhead of the space station for which they were primarily responsible for building and maintaining, it simply goes down. If one of the other space agencies wants to step up and make NASA whole for enough of the space station so that NASA doesn't have majority ownership, and/or at the very least, shoulder the burden of continued maintenance and upkeep, then the space station will survive.

Besides, simply looking at the $€¥£'s to date, it appears that NASA wants this thing in the sky a lot more than all of the other space agencies do.

RE: Unlikely...
By tmouse on 7/15/2009 8:11:38 AM , Rating: 2
Wow good thing you pointed that out.

Really are you THAT naive? Do you REALLY believe there would be plans to scrap the ISS without any consultation with the parties involved? You don't think any discussions have been held about the maintenance costs with the other countries? Do you really think the other countries have to read Dailytech to get this information? This is probably a more public announcement to put pressure on Washington and the other countries to keep funding going, I'm 100% sure ALL ISS partners know about these plans and probably are contributing to the plans, after all they know what's in their modules and what would have to be removed or the minimum requirements for complete destruction.

Spend More?
By Ristogod on 7/14/09, Rating: 0
RE: Spend More?
By KnightBreed on 7/14/2009 12:07:16 PM , Rating: 5
Most of the cost involved has been constructing the ISS. Why decommission it so soon? Construction costs are already sunk. Not like it'll cost that much, comparatively, to keep running.

RE: Spend More?
By 91TTZ on 7/14/2009 12:23:14 PM , Rating: 3
The thing is that the ISS is already up there. The money has already been spent. Sure, there will be a certain amount of money required to maintain it, but it'll be nothing like the cost of putting it up there in the first place.

Another thing to consider is our partners in this program. Many of them are countries without a full fledged space program that have heavily invested in the ISS. If their modules were only recently installed on the ISS they're not going to want to abandon the project so quickly.

Why wait?
By eldardude on 7/14/2009 3:01:59 PM , Rating: 2
Why not de-orbit it tomorrow? Just a suggestion...

RE: Why wait?
By Sazar on 7/14/2009 3:13:48 PM , Rating: 2
If it de-orbits after 2012, the end of the world would have occurred and the ISS would have captured it. Why de-orbit BEFORE the end of the world? That would just be dumb.

RE: Why wait?
By Zingam on 7/14/2009 3:33:21 PM , Rating: 2
I'd say: "Dammit! It sux!"

First Space Hotel
By mkruer on 7/14/2009 1:15:22 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously, why decommission it, why not sell it to some entrepreneurs i.e Virgin Galactic, and turn it into a space hotel.

That being said, I think that the ultimate failure of the ISS is not in its technology, but rather the duration it took to build it. 11yrs? the bulk of the delays and overruns were from the "international cooperation” The ISS is a tinker toy in space compared to those plans of the 80’s and even inflation adjusted, it would have been cheaper for the US to final and build the whole thing.

RE: First Space Hotel
By FITCamaro on 7/14/09, Rating: -1
RE: First Space Hotel
By goz314 on 7/14/2009 4:26:45 PM , Rating: 3
...and funding cuts that took place during the Bush administration and a little boo boo called Columbia.

In for a penny...
By Jansen (blog) on 7/14/2009 11:46:07 AM , Rating: 3
As the saying goes, "In for a penny..."

I say...
By bkslopper on 7/14/2009 12:21:45 PM , Rating: 1
...use the damn thing until it falls from the sky. If there's a crew on board when it happens, no biggie. Supposedly, a human life is only worth 3 million bucks or so. A drop in the bucket compared to 100 billion. A real leader can see the cost benefit ratio, and continue its use. A wuss would freak out over the bad publicity, and cancel the project.

RE: I say...
By gucio69 on 7/14/2009 1:46:47 PM , Rating: 2
Wonder if you'd say the same thing if it happened to be you on the ISS as it goes down. I had to ask despite the fact that I agree with you.

Sell it if they DON'T Want it
By Belard on 7/14/2009 7:20:48 PM , Rating: 1
Okay... NASA is retarded. We of knew that when they screwed everyone over the COLBERT Module. WTF bother with a voting contest if you weren't going to use the winning name anyways?

So... sell AD space on the bloody thing. Virgin Galactic sticks on a module for hotel stays... oh yeah, isn't the ISS supposed to MAYBE be a stop gap between the earth and the moon?

We can forget about MARs, of course. If we cannot handle the ISS around the Earth - HOW in the world are we going to handle sending 5~7 people to Mars for 1~2 years!!

RE: Sell it if they DON'T Want it
By Lerianis on 7/19/2009 2:00:20 AM , Rating: 2
You have a point. You have a very good point, and I don't know why our government is being so damned stupid about this.

The ISS should have been a 'near forever' project, that we were going to support until something better comes down the pike and is ACTIVELY BEING BUILT.

Just turn it over to the Russians...
By menace on 7/14/2009 12:26:06 PM , Rating: 2
They'll keep it running on shoestrings and duct tape. Then we can lease our usage of it probably cheaper than what we spend to maintain it.

wait a second
By yacoub on 7/14/2009 2:25:18 PM , Rating: 2
how good is that going to be for the environment? :(

By swizeus on 7/14/2009 3:28:51 PM , Rating: 2
So the idea is rather than sending money to other country, it is acceptable to just tear down the whole thing that mankind depends on

Good ridence
By imaheadcase on 7/14/2009 9:59:03 PM , Rating: 2
Its about time this money pit of wasted space is gone.

100 billion dollars could of been spent on actual science in space exploration, hell, project Orion could of been put together with that.

As stated over and over, the space station was a glorified peace treaty to make other nations feel equal in space ventures. It served no purpose other than that.

You know all those products people hoc about "designed by NASA"? All made on LAND. Ones made in space? zero.

I'm all for awesome space stuff, but budget cuts are a good thing now. It encourages people not to waste money and focus on what is important.

Lease it
By aromero78 on 7/15/2009 9:26:19 AM , Rating: 2
It would be a shame to de-orbit this thing but, I also wouldn't feel right selling something like this out right to the highest bidder; it would be nice if we could lease it. Few organizations will have the resources to pay the 100bn dollar price tag and have the money to keep it going. But, if you lease it, say for 2-3 billion a year or so. Or even sell time shares or something things become much more feasible. But, don't bring it down.

Concerning potential buyers
By ikeke1 on 7/15/2009 10:05:49 AM , Rating: 2

Maybe...just maybe :)

Yet ...
By dondino on 7/15/2009 6:36:37 PM , Rating: 2
The shuttle took off today to add ANOTHER component to the station ... /boggle

Why not get our moneys worth?
By Joshyouwaa on 7/14/2009 11:54:15 AM , Rating: 1
I would have just assumed that we used it until it became unusable. Waste of money IMO. Guess the E.T.'s don't like our space junk sitting out there.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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