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ISS a waste of time and money?

Posted by: beancounter - Mon Dec 12, 2005 3:34 am
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ISS a waste of time and money? 
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Post ISS a waste of time and money?   Posted on: Mon Dec 12, 2005 3:34 am
I've read a lot about how the ISS is a waste of time and money and how NASA, RSA, ESA and a few minor partners shouldn't continue to be involved in it however the question then becomes how do you do space-based research? I mean, why are these countries in space in the first place? OK so there's a few :) satellites floating around up there doing things like spying, communications, a bit of earth-science, etc but we don't need to do anything else surely :!:

Well I think that view is very shortsighted. :( The availability of the ISS as a habitable station is invaluable. People talk of going back to the Moon and on to Mars and further but humans don't know how to live and work in space. The ISS is where we can learn how to do that. Without it, and the science that can be done there, I believe there's little chance and a lot of risk involved in going straight into a Moon base and further.
In addition, there's all the space-based research that can be done that will eventually contribute to life on Earth as has already been the case for some of it.

The ISS is a very early attempt to develop an ongoing habitat for humans in space. It needs time to evolve and develop and failing to take advantage of the opportunities it presents would be a crime for humanity. And it needs a rotating complement of scientists and researchers working there, not just astronauts taking orders from downstairs. The lack of a sufficiently developed transportation system to and from LEO is not the ISS's fault however it may force the development of one.

Now don't anyone start making comparisons with exploration and bases on Earth as I've heard some reporters and so-called scientists spouting. The two simply aren't the same and while the environments on Earth may have been extreme, nevertheless you didn't have to worry about running out of a breathable atmosphere or bone degeneration.

Oh, by the way. If a spacestation is so not useful or worth the money, why do the Chinese have one in their plans?

Anyway, I've had a rant :x so now what do others think. :)

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Post ISS a waste of time and money?   Posted on: Mon Dec 12, 2005 12:52 pm
The problem with the ISS is that it isn't really being used much for research. When the Shuttle was flying there were three crewmembers who spent the majority of their time doing maintenance. Now that there are only two full time crew, little other than maintenance is being done.

Now that is not to say that we aren't getting data out of the ISS, though most of it is environmental. There just isn't much in the way of science being done. Worse yet, with a designed maximum of three crew, there probably never will be.

I sure hope Bigelow manages to complete his development work on his inflatables. We need more volume in orbit and in more than one station.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Dec 12, 2005 2:09 pm
No one specifically disagrees with the concept of a space station like ISS.

The gripe however, it about the implementation and subsequent usage.

The ISS, much like the STS, IMO, was a result of political interference/compromises which eventually lost its scientific focus. To put it plainly, whatever science NASA claims it is doing that could have been done at a fraction of the price using a smaller cheaper station.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Dec 12, 2005 6:06 pm
koxinga wrote:
whatever science NASA claims it is doing that could have been done at a fraction of the price using a smaller cheaper station.
Right on! They should never have abandoned Skylab.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Dec 12, 2005 7:10 pm
A lot of people see the ISS as a Millstone hanging around the neck of NASA where it should be the exact opposite. It beggars belief that something that has cost so much money is so under utilised.

The sooner they get Columbus up there and increase the crew size the better, perhaps they could sponsor Biggelow to build a couple of inflatables to increase the crew's living space. Then all they would have to do is finance SpaceDev's Dreamchaser to get the crew up there and the ISS could start paying some of its money back (yeah right, as if).

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Post    Posted on: Mon Dec 12, 2005 8:28 pm
The ISS is plenty big. It has plenty of volume. The problem is complexity. I wish I could remember the article where I read this, but some engineer computed a "complexity index" for Skylab, Mir and ISS. The ISS came out with an index about 1000 times higher any of the others. I mean it was laughable, with numbers like 20, 50 and 25,000 or something like that.



(EDIT) OK, I found it in the Space Review, here:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/453/1

It says, "In an effort to quantify the magnitude of difficulty faced by space station developers, Diaz said he developed an algorithm that computes a “factor of difficulty” for various space station projects. According to his algorithm, Skylab has a score of 5 and Mir approximately 10 to 20. The ISS? About 2,500, Diaz said."


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Post    Posted on: Tue Dec 13, 2005 1:15 am
Yeah, it's a complex beast but then, as previously mentioned, it is a compromise.

However I make the point again, it's still being built, it hasn't yet reached a stage where it's builders can begin to think about further development and refinement and there still isn't a way of increasing utilisation due to lack of a reliable transport system for sufficiently decent amounts of cargo and people.

That's not the ISS's fault. That lies with NASA who basically put all their eggs into the Shuttle program instead of spreading the risk due to lack of political will and resultant funding.

Now that's come back to bite them big time. :(

Bigalow's stuff is interesting. He's been getting quite a lot of help from NASA including the original technology patents which he bought. I'd say he's still a few years away from proving this and at least 5 years from having something 'permanent' up there. He's in the same boat as the ISS - no reliable transport system. :x

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Post    Posted on: Thu Dec 29, 2005 12:12 am
the best teachers are mistakes and lessons learned. Every glitch, bug, and failed piece of hardware hopefully is being documented in a "Lesson's Learned" report somewhere and will be utilized for future outpost developments.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jan 17, 2006 10:36 am
One of the major lessons learnt has been dont be reliant on a single launcher to get all the main pieces into orbit, I dont think that ESA is very happy about waiting to get its columbus lab into orbit.

http://today.reuters.com/news/newsArtic ... ived=False

and even if they do get it up there they are still concerned about having flights for enough crew to utilise it properly

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/Space_St ... s_ESA.html

This all seems to suggest that they might be a bit reluctant to enter into further partnerships with the US and might prefer to work more with the Russians on Kliper.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Jan 17, 2006 2:48 pm
As koxinga said, the basic concept of a space station is sound, and ISS will definitely not be the last. I think that there are many useful purposes for space stations.

The issue with the ISS, I suspect, may lie in the politics that brought about its being - a grandiose make-work exercise, something for NASA to do once the shuttle was flying, later something to keep Russian engineers busy. In many places I've read how the functions of the station would be better served by several smaller facilities, such as 'man-tended' rather than occupied labs, which would take advantage of the better microgravity conditions possible when people aren't thumping and bumping about.

The whole notion of building a complex of interconnected tin-cans with life-support, power, thermal management systems etc which have to mesh together perfectly on first connection, on orbit, with no previous testing... that may be what accounts for the 'difficulty factor' of the ISS. I suspect that the rational way to construct a large space station is in one piece - certainly, I find the arguments in favour of that approach quite convincing. On the other hand, that does lead to the requirement for an HLLV, and the 'Diaz algorithm' figure for Mir isn't too bad, so it may not be as simple as that.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jan 17, 2006 3:03 pm
Hello, Centrillium,

problems with large structures brought into space as one whole piece to me are an argument against the approach to carry them as one whole piece.

The reason is that all of that whole piece has to be tested out previously - before it is lifted. This would mean that all is tested under gravity-conditions but not under those microgravity-conditions it is destined to work under.

If it turns out that the whole thing isn't constructed properly then it could be a complete loss and damage.

For this reason I prefer small modules the first of which is brought into orbit and then checked out there for each bug a user of it can imagine. By each bug detected it can be learnt to aviod it at the next module to be constructed and lifted and in particular how to make it correct.

In so far the error with the ISS is that the work on most of the modules had been started because the first of them was in orbit and checked out by its future users.

If the chain would have been "1.first module constructed, 2. first module lifted, 3. first module checked out, 4. first module made error-free,5. second module constructed by involving the corrections of the first module ..." then it would have been more possible and easy to do work in the ISS and building in parallel. there would have been less trouble then and everybody would be more content Ithink.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Jan 17, 2006 10:22 pm
It would still make more sense to but up 'modules' 100mT at a time though.

Skylab should have been replaced with the equivalent of three sklabs chained together.

The problem there is that the Space Shuttle would have had nothing to do and everybody would have had to admit it was a waste of time. Thus we see the true purpose of baby modules with squidgy airlocks.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:34 am
I would have thought that NASA would have been doing its upmost to shift as many modules as possible off of the shuttle and find alternative methods of getting them to the ISS. What makes them so shuttle specific anyway?

You could use an Arianne to get them to orbit but would probably need a modified fairing. Of course there is still the problem of getting parts close enough to the ISS so that the robotic arm could manipulate them into place. Perhaps the Russian Parom space tug could be the answer this would also make it easier for private spacecraft to dock.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Jan 18, 2006 9:11 am
Hey all,

Andy, you raise an issue I've wondered about for a long time - what about using either the expendables, or even better, buying a series of flights from SpaceX? Admitedly, you'd need some sort of Transfer tug to get it up close and personal, but frankly, wouldn't that be much cheaper than having to keep the damn shuttle flying?


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jan 18, 2006 1:09 pm
Hello, idiom,

if small modules for checking out, correcting methods, assembly and the like would have been lifted this wouldn't have meant that there would have been nothing to do for the Space Shuttle - its task only would have been different.

The way the ISS is constructed actually is to put together complete modules - and the Shutlle lifts these compelte modules. If the station would have been built the way I talk about the Shuttle would lift elements, components and parts of modules instead. This way the Shuttle could lift much more pieces of the station at one launch than actually. I too often have seen the cargo bay of the Shuttle ehausted to less than a half only regarding volume.

The first small modules for checking out and making experiences with the quite different environement should have been habitats and in particular stores for elements, components and parts simply. Then the Shuttle could have carried elements, components and parts there simply and return other elements, components and parts which turned out to require too much of modifications for being used in that environment.

The habitats would have been required really - for the astronauts working and engineers and developers to have their own direct eye on problems. Soem things to be stgtored in the store could have been instruments fro the science to begin later when the station is more ready, wires and much more. The store could be pressurized partially and open to space partially by providing a skeleton simply the elements etc. could be fixed too for a while.

May be that this way it would take more time to complete the ISS - but it has turned out that during that time technology is advancing significantly. This menas that the technological progress could have been used to a higher degree than actually. For example the owner of the ISS could have worked together with Bigelow to get the technology of inflatables and make use of it, they could have got ready a new way which will be tested suborbitally in short time - the web robots will go up and down - and they may have available lighter materials perhaps. The last point would have increased the amount of the ISS which could have been lifted at one launch.

The new technologies I mentioned would have got a push then and would have been ready earlier than actually. The effect would have been exponential.

So I suppose that a lot of chances have been ignored and non-used.

There is another point whihc is a pity too - the ISS wasn't made an element of a major project. It should have been made a part of an international Bush-Plan. It should have got the actual tasks as well as the task to be the first step back to the moon and to Mars.

To do so one of the major goals should have been habitat-construction in an environment where there is no atmosphere and everything is set to radiation directly and without protection. Then the next step could have been an advanced and non-prtotype station in a lunar orbit which would be a transit point to the lunar surfce only where the lunar station could have been built based on the lessons learned by the checks etc. done by small modules in the earthian orbit. It could have been learned what advantages could be got by orbital stations around other planets.

It ,ight be that this way savings would have been got regarding each kind of Mars mission.



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