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Thread: Space station to be de-orbited by 2016

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    Space station to be de-orbited by 2016

    washingtonpost.com

    A number of times in recent weeks a bright, unblinking light has appeared in the night sky of the nation's capital: a spaceship. Longer than a football field, weighing 654,000 pounds, the spaceship moved swiftly across the heavens and vanished.
    Fortunately, it was one of ours.

    The international space station is by far the largest spacecraft ever built by earthlings. Circling the Earth every 90 minutes, it often passes over North America and is visible from the ground when night has fallen but the station, up high, is still bathed in sunlight.

    After more than a decade of construction, it is nearing completion and finally has a full crew of six astronauts. The last components should be installed by the end of next year.

    And then?

    "In the first quarter of 2016, we'll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft," says NASA's space station program manager, Michael T. Suffredini.

    That's a polite way of saying that NASA will make the space station fall back into the atmosphere, where it will turn into a fireball and then crash into the Pacific Ocean. It'll be a controlled reentry, to ensure that it doesn't take out a major city. But it'll be destroyed as surely as a Lego palace obliterated by the sweeping arm of a suddenly bored kid.

    This, at least, is NASA's plan, pending a change in policy. There's no long-term funding on the books for international space station operations beyond 2015.

    Suffredini raised some eyebrows when, at a public hearing last month, he declared flatly that the plan is to de-orbit the station in 2016. He addressed his comments to a panel chaired by former aerospace executive Norman Augustine that is charged by the Obama administration with reviewing the entire human spaceflight program. Everything is on the table -- missions, goals, rocket design. And right there in the mix is this big, fancy space laboratory circling the Earth from 220 miles up.


    The cost of the station is both a liability and, paradoxically, a virtue. A figure commonly associated with the ISS is that it will ultimately cost the United States and its international partners about $100 billion. That may add to the political pressure to keep the space laboratory intact and in orbit rather than seeing it plunging back to Earth so soon after completion.

    "If we've spent a hundred billion dollars, I don't think we want to shut it down in 2015," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told Augustine's committee.

    Suffredini agrees.

    My opinion is it would be a travesty to de-orbit this thing," he said. "If we get rid of this darned thing in 2015, we're going to cede our leadership in human exploration."
    NASA has a strategy built on President George W. Bush's Vision for Space Exploration, of which a return to the moon is the next great leap. The space station's defenders say it can provide essential research on long-duration spaceflight.

    Suffredini argues that any long-term exploration of the universe requires an initial step of learning how to survive in space. The best place to do that is close to the Earth, he said. The space station sticks to low Earth orbit. "It's also teaching us how to work together as a world, as a planet," he said.

    Although there is no official lobbying going on to extend the mission, NASA is conducting a thorough review of the station to see what it would take to certify it as operational through the late 2020s, Suffredini said. Even in the vacuum of space, things break down, get old, wear out.

    Critics have long derided the orbiting laboratory as a boondoggle. Originally called Space Station Freedom during the Reagan years, it became the international space station when the United States lured Russia into a partnership in 1993, agreeing to alter the orbit of the station to make it pass over the Russian-run space complex in Kazakhstan. That agreement helped keep Russian scientists and engineers employed at a time when the United States feared they would become rogue agents in a chaotic world.

    The rap on the space station has always been that it was built primarily to give the space shuttle somewhere to go. Now, with the shuttle being retired at the end of 2010, the station is on the spot. U.S. astronauts will be able to reach the station only by getting rides on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.

    The station has repeatedly been hit with budget cuts and design modifications. Much of its science funding was cut earlier this decade. A centrifuge had been planned as a crucial scientific component of the station, but it didn't survive the budget axe. Until the end of May, the station had a crew of three, barely enough for housekeeping.

    NASA officials say there will be important science performed on the station in the years ahead. The last flight of the space shuttle will install on the station a physics experiment called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which will search for dark matter and antimatter.


    But a prominent critic of human spaceflight, physicist Robert L. Park of the University of Maryland, said putting astronauts on the space station is akin to "flagpole-sitting." He argues that the station fundamentally lacks a mission.

    Gentler criticism comes from David Leckrone, senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, who thinks the station is underutilized. He fears that NASA measures the station's value solely in terms of how it might advance the long-term "Exploration" agenda of returning to the moon, with basic science research as an afterthought.

    "Whether it 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," Leckrone said.

    Park has a different suggestion: "Give it to China. Let them support the damn thing."






    This can't possibly be true can it?:(

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    Defense Professional Dreadnought's Avatar
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    This can't possibly be true can it?

    *IMO, Its the only way the U.S. will be able to fund the future moon landings, moon base and the future mission to mars. I agree its a shame it will be finished so soon after being completed. Many here can probably remember the end of Sky Lab during the Reagan administration.

    The international space station is by far the largest spacecraft ever built by earthlings. Circling the Earth every 90 minutes, it often passes over North America and is visible from the ground when night has fallen but the station, up high, is still bathed in sunlight.

    *Yep, or visable to the J.O.T.S. system 24/7.
    Last edited by Dreadnought; 15 Jul 09, at 17:26.
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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    What did we get from this space station?
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnut View Post
    What did we get from this space station?
    Somewhere for the space shuttle to go.
    It does have a use though, move it up to high earth orbit and shield it properly it could act as a life boat if moon and mars return vehicles couldn't re-enter for some reason.
    Last edited by Parihaka; 15 Jul 09, at 21:51.
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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Parihaka View Post
    Somewhere for the space shuttle to go.
    It does have a use though, move it up to high earth orbit and shield it properly it could act as a life boat if moon and mars return vehicles couldn't re-enter for some reason.
    That's an idea.

    I hope we can keep it running for a while. We did spend a lot of money on it. Why let it go to waste like all other government projects?

    Wait...ha...here's another government project that doesn't get the "it doesn't work? then let's waste more money on it" treatment.

    I figure the dems would like to keep it because it's a waste of money. Since they want to cut it, that means it's useful.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Senior Contributor Canmoore's Avatar
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    I cant understand why anyone would want to axe the ISS. Space is the final frontier, and we have spent decades working on it. Now, we are just going to throw it in the garbage bin?

    We humans as a species will never leave our planet and unlock the secrets of the Universe if we continue thinking in such silly ways. Think back to the great explorers of the 15th century.

    These were men who braved the unkown, and explored new lands, and met new people. Yes, there mission was one motivated by Kings, war, treasure, and Nobility. However, in the end, it was the pure natural Human desire to explore and learn, that lead us to not only explore the planet, but unlock its secrets.

    Now, because it costs to much, and because of a closed minded notion, of a "lack of a mission for the ISS". We are ready to just let decades of work fade away?

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    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    Low earth orbit is a waste of time. Any of the useful research was done by the Soviets with Mir. A high orbit station is usful as a way-station but none of the moon or Mars shots can use the current station because it's way too low.
    If they want to find a use for it, add ten times the number of solar panels and shift it to high earth orbit as a service station.
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    Banned Senior Contributor dalem's Avatar
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    Pari stole my thunder. LEO is stupid and a waste of time - always has been. HEO is the place to be to be useful. Geosychronous to be exact - 22,000 miles.

    THAT'S a space station.

    -dale

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    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    Quote Originally Posted by dalem View Post
    Geosychronous to be exact - 22,000 miles.

    -dale
    I'm too lazy to learn the physics: is 22,000 miles the number irrespective of mass?
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    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    Quote Originally Posted by Parihaka View Post
    I'm too lazy to learn the physics: is 22,000 miles the number irrespective of mass?
    Scratch that, dumb question, just re-read Newtons second law of motion
    Does offer a second use for it if placed in HEO though: refuel station for geostationary comm.sats. Turn those silly research modules into fuel tanks)
    In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility

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    Banned SnowLeopard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canmoore View Post
    I cant understand why anyone would want to axe the ISS. Space is the final frontier, and we have spent decades working on it. Now, we are just going to throw it in the garbage bin?

    We humans as a species will never leave our planet and unlock the secrets of the Universe if we continue thinking in such silly ways. Think back to the great explorers of the 15th century.

    These were men who braved the unkown, and explored new lands, and met new people. Yes, there mission was one motivated by Kings, war, treasure, and Nobility. However, in the end, it was the pure natural Human desire to explore and learn, that lead us to not only explore the planet, but unlock its secrets.

    Now, because it costs to much, and because of a closed minded notion, of a "lack of a mission for the ISS". We are ready to just let decades of work fade away?
    What possibly makes you think that it's final? It is certainly the next frontier or another frontier.............but what possibly makes you think it is the final one?

    The lines from the opening of a tv show of 4 decades ago?
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    ("What kind of games do they have where you come from?"--Sheba
    "Oh, games that would amaze you! Games of Life and Games of Death!"--Count Iblis
    "How horrible!"
    "Not at all! Death isn't the end; it's only the beginning!", (w,stte), BSG "War of the Gods")

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    Defense Professional Dreadnought's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SnowLeopard View Post
    What possibly makes you think that it's final? It is certainly the next frontier or another frontier.............but what possibly makes you think it is the final one?

    The lines from the opening of a tv show of 4 decades ago?
    ________________________________
    ("What kind of games do they have where you come from?"--Sheba
    "Oh, games that would amaze you! Games of Life and Games of Death!"--Count Iblis
    "How horrible!"
    "Not at all! Death isn't the end; it's only the beginning!", (w,stte), BSG "War of the Gods")
    *Especially considering the fact that we have explored only a small fraction of what lies under the surface of the worlds oceans. Just imagine if for a time if we could remove the water and sea life to explore the past that lies on the bottom. Explore it and then return it to normal without any loss.
    Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.

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    20 years of planning, budgeting, (praying for it not to be cancelled), working with half a dozen countries to get it up, building it...

    And now?... "Right, you got 5 years to play with it and do some proper research, then we are going back to 1950's rocket-to-mars plans"...

    Why do I get the feeling that NASA is going backwards?... :(

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    Banned Senior Contributor dalem's Avatar
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    I turned my post into a blog post instead. Here.

    -dale
    Last edited by dalem; 16 Jul 09, at 21:35.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jlvfr View Post
    20 years of planning, budgeting, (praying for it not to be cancelled), working with half a dozen countries to get it up, building it...

    And now?... "Right, you got 5 years to play with it and do some proper research, then we are going back to 1950's rocket-to-mars plans"...

    Why do I get the feeling that NASA is going backwards?... :(
    Well to be fair it's not like it was sitting there in LEO doing nothing from the day that the original Zarya element was chucked into space 11 years now to the behemoth it is today.

    Things have been going on in there for some time. And it should be completed by 2011. And they'll have five years with it in full spec to do stuff in. And by 2016 who knows how far we would have come and how obsolete the ISS will be by then. Seems like a long enough time for me. Lots of massive projects that break new grounds are considered "wastes of money" but in reality stuff like this is massively important in the long context and everything but a waste of money

    And the main thing is, these NASA/Space agency people know what they're doing. Obviously there's a long and probably complex reason as to why the life cycle ends in 2016.

    One thing I agree with though is how after the Apollo program was completed the Moon was effectively abandoned. That's one sign of moving backwards. Oh and also grounding the Concorde, also a step backwards. Also the current trend of not using Nuclear power in most Western countries, also a step backwards...

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