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View Full Version : Spirit has landed. Can we ditch the space station now?


Tom Ames
01-06-2004, 06:35 PM
The embarrassing consequence of great success in unmanned space science programs is that it reveals how ridiculous the manned missions are.

Why do we have a shuttle? To get to the space station.
Why do we have a space station? Um, to grow crystals or something.

If we abandoned the white elephant of the shuttle/ISS, we could have hundreds of probes blanketing the solar system. Dozens of Hubbles, maybe.

Why must we keep throwing good money after bad? Bring down the ISS, I say, and use to money to REALLY explore the cosmos!

Mangetout
01-06-2004, 06:53 PM
Originally posted by Tom Ames
If we abandoned the white elephant of the shuttle/ISS, we could have hundreds of probes blanketing the solar system. Dozens of Hubbles, maybe.Hubble has been quite reliant on the shuttle though, hasn't it?

Just saying.

Lobsang
01-06-2004, 06:59 PM
The Vulcans will ignore us if wo don't do cool things like put men on mars.

Tom Ames
01-06-2004, 08:02 PM
Originally posted by Mangetout
Hubble has been quite reliant on the shuttle though, hasn't it?

Just saying.

Hubble has been reliant on the shuttle because it was designed to be reliant on the shuttle. Other space observatories don't need to rely on the shuttle.

(Of course, other observatories weren't screwed up the first time, either.)

Plus: balancing costs and benefits, a replacement Hubble would cost a fraction of what the manned space program costs.

Otara
01-06-2004, 08:13 PM
"If we abandoned the white elephant of the shuttle/ISS, we could have hundreds of probes blanketing the solar system."

This assumes that Nasa would get even a fraction of the funding that it does with manned programs.

Otara

Early Out
01-06-2004, 11:05 PM
Originally posted by Tom Ames
Plus: balancing costs and benefits, a replacement Hubble would cost a fraction of what the manned space program costs. Very true. The Hubble cost roughly $1.5 billion to build and launch. Space shuttle costs are tougher to pin down (which parts of the manned space program do you include in the total cost?), but NASA gives a figure of just under $500 million for each and every shuttle mission.

So, out of the $1.5 billion to get Hubble into orbit, a third of it consisted of the cost of the shuttle to get it there. It would have been cheaper to send it up on a big, dumb rocket (though it would have required a somewhat different design, I assume).

Instead of sending a couple of space shuttles up to repair the Hubble, it would ultimately be cheaper simply to send up another space telescope.

The cost of the ISS is tough to pin down, but current estimates are in the $25 billion range. Money down a rat hole, IMO.

The pair of Mars explorers, by comparison, cost a total of $820 million, or less than two space shuttle launches. And these explorers (assuming #2 arrives safely, of course!), unlike the space shuttles and ISS, are actually doing real science.

Early Out
01-07-2004, 12:34 AM
Originally posted by Tom Ames
Why do we have a space station? Um, to grow crystals or something. Not even that, BTW: see item #2 here (http://www.aps.org/WN/WN03/wn022103.html).

scr4
01-07-2004, 12:46 AM
Originally posted by Tom Ames
If we abandoned the white elephant of the shuttle/ISS, we could have hundreds of probes blanketing the solar system. Dozens of Hubbles, maybe.
There are two completely different goals. The goal of the unmanned scientific missions is to do science. The goal of the manned program is to learn how to travel and live in space. If we decide the second goal is unimportant then you are correct, we should abandon the manned space program. But as far as I can tell, a significant percentage of taxpayers think both goals are important.

Early Out
01-07-2004, 01:01 AM
Originally posted by scr4
The goal of the manned program is to learn how to travel and live in space. Even if I were to agree that that's an important objective, I would still maintain that the ISS is not teaching us anything about traveling and living in space that we don't already know. It's just flagpole-sitting.

scr4
01-07-2004, 02:13 AM
Originally posted by Early Out
Even if I were to agree that that's an important objective, I would still maintain that the ISS is not teaching us anything about traveling and living in space that we don't already know. It's just flagpole-sitting.
And even if I were to agree, that does not mean the manned space program should be cancelled. Reorganized and streamlined, maybe, but it's still a worthwile goal. And more important in the public eye now that China has entered the game.

flonks
01-07-2004, 04:00 AM
If we abandon the manned space program, how can the human race ever learn to leave this planet and use up another one?

Rashak Mani
01-07-2004, 06:14 AM
Originally posted by flonks
If we abandon the manned space program, how can the human race ever learn to leave this planet and use up another one?

Or learn to cooperate with other nations...

Its sad that so many feel the ISS should be scraped... or the space program diminished. Even being very wasteful in terms of money they were still all about progress and exploration... reaching out beyond earth. Yet it seems the US would rather be famous for military adventures instead. Sad.

I worked in the space area and its sad how much its been left aside... might be a romantic vision...

Early Out
01-07-2004, 07:42 AM
Originally posted by Rashak Mani
Its sad that so many feel the ISS should be scraped... or the space program diminished. Even being very wasteful in terms of money they were still all about progress and exploration... reaching out beyond earth. Ah, but you've hit the nail on the head. The problem with the ISS is that it's manifestly not about progress and exploration! It's doing absolutely nothing to increase our knowledge about space exploration, manned or otherwise. It's sitting in low-earth orbit, a realm of space that holds no mysteries whatsoever. There is no research taking place on the ISS that has any promise of solving the well-known problems of long-duration manned space flight (loss of bone density, loss of muscle mass, exposure to radiation, etc.).

We can disagree about whether humans will ever travel beyond the Earth, the Moon, and perhaps Mars, but however you assess that possibility, the ISS is still a waste of time, effort, and money.

Bytegeist
01-07-2004, 03:37 PM
Anne Applebaum has a good editorial (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A60593-2004Jan6.html) in today's Washington Post on this very subject, supporting the OP.