International Space Station : Science??

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rogerinnh

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We hear very little about the ISS (International Space Station) except when something goes wrong or when another spacecraft visits it (the Shuttle or a crsft from Russia). But the whole purpose of the ISS is to do science, isn't it? What science has been accomplished in all the years that the ISS has been flying? Is there any web site that lists the actual accomplishments of the ISS? What, indeed, are the accomplishments of the ISS?
 
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rogers_buck

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It proved that two straight guys will remain straight. That has been helpfull to prison authorities. I think that's about it.<br />
 
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CalliArcale

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ISS has also been running long-duration experiments on a variety of subjects. The most obvious test subjects are of course the astronauts and cosmonauts themselves, who regularily draw blood and submit to EEG tests, and are tested again on the ground. The objective there is mainly to see if they can stave off the problems of bone loss (useful not only for spaceflight but also for osteoporosis treatments on the ground) and muscle atrophy (particularily atrophy of the cardiovascular system). So far the research has been promising, with long-duration crewmembers returning to normal activity much more quickly after returning to Earth than in the past.<br /><br />Other research includes Earth observation, materials science, physics, and biology (esp plant growth). It's a lot of the same things that were studied on Shuttle, but for much longer periods of time, and the same things that were studied on Mir, but with larger facilities (which means you can send up more specimens for a single experiment, increasing the accuracy of the results). Objectives for these studies include growth of much purer crystals, culturing of cells in a more realistic glob instead of the petri dishes you have to use on Earth, learning how to cultivate crops in space to feed future astronauts and possibly help with air and water treatment, improve the ability of astronauts to survive long trips (vital for trips to other planets), and so forth.<br /><br />It's not the kind of stuff that usually makes headlines, I'm afraid. Most people consider it boring. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p> </p><p><font color="#666699"><em>"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly . . . timey wimey . . . stuff."</em>  -- The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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Saiph

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most people, unfortunately, equate that boring with useless and unimportant as well. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p align="center"><font color="#c0c0c0"><br /></font></p><p align="center"><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">----</font></em></font><font color="#666699">SaiphMOD@gmail.com </font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">-------------------</font></em></font></p><p><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">"This is my Timey Wimey Detector.  Goes "bing" when there's stuff.  It also fries eggs at 30 paces, wether you want it to or not actually.  I've learned to stay away from hens: It's not pretty when they blow" -- </font></em></font><font size="1" color="#999999">The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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silylene old

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Sadly, science on the ISS has taken a back seat to other issues (shuttle loss, budgets, undermanning, limiting political agreements with Russia). As a result, the amount of science being done is much less than the original plan, and much less than the science which was done on Mir.<br /><br />We had an excellent thread on this issue several months ago, before the forums crash & burn. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><em><font color="#0000ff">- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -</font></em> </div><div class="Discussion_UserSignature" align="center"><font color="#0000ff"><em>I really, really, really miss the "first unread post" function.</em></font> </div> </div>
 
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paleo

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Science. what science? Nothing of importance. But what is REALLY VALUABLE is technology for living in space. Every little quirk and glitch is a goldmine of experience on how to live in space. It's the boring incremental technological advances that add to the chances of a successful habitation on the Moon or a trip someday to Mars. Better a crisis with oxygen supply when a few hours away from touchdown on Earth than a couple days away on the Moon or months away on a trip to Mars.<br /><br /> I've always thought the Science on the ISS mostly grade school level but understand that you need to grow a few bean sprouts or hatch some frog eggs to get a soundbite on CNN.
 
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redwhitearcher

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I consider human presence in space and gaining experience the most imprortant science experiment of all.
 
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robnissen

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The ISS exists for one reason: to give the Space Shuttle a place to go. The Space Shuttle exists for one reason: to go to the ISS. NASA totally lost its way with the Space Shuttle/ISS which are nothing but corporate welfare for Lockheed, et. al. I will be the first to admit that Hubble has done wonderful science, but we could have done much better science if NASA had continued with a moon program rather than abandoning it for the Space Shuttle (indeed the moon is a much better place for a telescope than earth orbit). To get Congress to approve the space shuttle, NASA claimed that it would cost $5 million per flight and that it could fly on two-week turn arounds. That number was a lie, and everyone knew it was a lie back in the 70s (see Easterbook article, Atlantic Monthly circa 1981). The current per flight cost of the shuttle is about $500 million (and that does not include the price of the shuttle). The fact of the matter is that we have spent over $100 billion on the space shuttle (which actually means each space shuttle flight comes in at just under $1 Billion), add in another $30 billion for the ISS and for $130 billion we get to study the effects of weightlessness on humans -- a subject that was studied repeatedly on Sky Lab and on Mir (Mir cost about $5 billion BTW). Personally, I would like to see the Shuttle remain grounded -- except perhaps for a final Hubble mission, the ISS shelved and NASA begin working on a moon base.
 
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erioladastra

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<br />Actually, the science is much better than grade school level. However, the biggest problem is coordination and limited subjects. Unfortunately, due to the way the governements are working much duplication is being done. For example, Russians execute experiement A. But the US researchers also want to do that so they do essentially the same experiment. This happens because the Russians review and approve their own, and the US approves their own. Then you add that while it might be good science you might only have one data point or person. This is due for some of the reasons listed elsewhere but also there is so much research and so little time few projects are selected.<br /><br />Another problem in a sense is it takes YEARS to get the data (especially if you need more data points), anaylze it, publish etc so even some of the data coming down won't be out for a while which makes it look like little is being done. Of course, with more crews and resources more could be done.<br /><br />Amazingly, we have seen little reduction in science since Columbia but if we don't get flying soon that can change.<br /><br />With that said, personally I think the real value of ISS is learning how to do it internationally. Realistically, if we return to the Moon and go to Mars it will have to be with international cooperation. That is not easy. Even when you have experienced partners like the Russians - they have very different ways of doing things and resource issues. Sadly, with their low levels of support and little R&D, they may not be able to support a joing Moon or Mars mission. Anyway, it has been helpful, albeit painful at times, to learn how to work with them, the Europeans and the Japanese. If we pull this off this will be the biggest accomplishment.<br /><br />Also, I am hoping to teach the next project personnel that adopting the 'way we did it in Shuttle' doesn't work well! <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br /><br />
 
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Saiph

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While ISS was ill concieved (IMO) It was not done as a form of corporate wellfare for lockheed et al. Those companies can do just fine on just thier defense contracts alone. Now, I'm sure lockheed pushed for the project, saying they can do it, they'd like to do it, just pay them. But that's not quite the same thing.<br /><br /><br /><br />I also completely and utterly disagree with your assesment of the value of a moon base, scientifically. Estimated costs for establishing such a base is 500 billion dollars. Thats 5x what we've spent on 20 years of shuttle service. The return scientifically: LESS than the shuttle.<br /><br />Why less you ask? You yell even? Simple: Conditions present on the moon are easily replicated on earth, with the exception of the lower gravity. And lower gravity isn't a big goal either. And it isn't insurmountable (suspending things in fluids, neutral bouyancy tanks etc, can simulate that).<br /><br />The long duration micro-gee free fall environment of orbital stations cannot be mimicked on earth. They provide a unique environment.<br /><br />All the moon offers is: Further away, less gravity. Neither of which matters (unless by less gravity we mean ~0).<br /><br />Now, the only scientific endeavor I would agree to, dealing with the moon, is large radio telescope (or array) on the dark side of the moon. THis provides ~100% shielding from earth based radio noise.<br /><br /><br />Also, as far as studies on the stations, it isn't just long term human effects (though those are important to monitor and learn from using new techniques), but a whole bunch of other things as well (as mentioned already).<br /><br /><br /><br />A note on the level of experimentation: Sure, it may seem like low level stuff, but most experiments are simple.<br /><br />Take mine for instance. I work on a study where we study quasar variability in efforts to understand the dynamics of the accretion torus. Things such as polarization, composition, thickness, rotation rates, <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p align="center"><font color="#c0c0c0"><br /></font></p><p align="center"><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">----</font></em></font><font color="#666699">SaiphMOD@gmail.com </font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">-------------------</font></em></font></p><p><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">"This is my Timey Wimey Detector.  Goes "bing" when there's stuff.  It also fries eggs at 30 paces, wether you want it to or not actually.  I've learned to stay away from hens: It's not pretty when they blow" -- </font></em></font><font size="1" color="#999999">The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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alexblackwell

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<i>We hear very little about the ISS (International Space Station) except when something goes wrong or when another spacecraft visits it (the Shuttle or a crsft from Russia). But the whole purpose of the ISS is to do science, isn't it? What science has been accomplished in all the years that the ISS has been flying?</i><br /><br />You'll probably hear different opinions on this depending on who's doing the opining; however, my own sentiments echo those expressed in an editorial in the September 30, 2004 issue of <i>Nature</i> entitled "Holding the line at NASA," which I excerpt below:<br /><br />"For the past decade, a firewall has existed within NASA's budget, separating the agency's science programme from its astronaut programme. Thanks partly to congressional supervision, NASA has not raided its science account to pay for the space shuttle or the space station. Spending on science has actually gone up, while the shuttle and space-station budgets have stayed flat or declined.<br /><br />"Scientists believe, with good reason, that this is based largely on merit. The Hubble Space Telescope, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe and the Mars Exploration Rovers have returned solid results. The shuttle and space station have not."
 
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erioladastra

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"I also completely and utterly disagree with your assesment of the value of a moon base, scientifically. Estimated costs for establishing such a base is 500 billion dollars. Thats 5x what we've spent on 20 years of shuttle service. The return scientifically: LESS than the shuttle. "<br /><br />I won't debate your other points but that number is not correct and meaningless. First, there is not even a proposed plan or project other than 'going there' so any number is a pure guess. Second, many of the number bandied about have arisen because person A makes estimate X, B says well projects are always off, so really it is 10*X, C says, projects are always off and has hears B's estimate and says it must therefore be 10*10*X. So you get wild inflation. The sad thing is the contractors will purposely underbid knowing that that is what it will take it sell it and knowing they will get the money later in all the changes that need to be made after the project was descoped to save money. My point? It will be a lot, more than people say, but your number or any number at this point is fiction.<br /><br /><br /><br />"Now, the only scientific endeavor I would agree to, dealing with the moon, is large radio telescope (or array) on the dark side of the moon. THis provides ~100% shielding from earth based radio noise. "<br /><br />ACK! There is no dark side of the moon. There IS a FAR side which would be earth shielded but it all (pretty much) gets light.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
 
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robnissen

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"The sad thing is the contractors will purposely underbid knowing that that is what it will take it sell it and knowing they will get the money later in all the changes that need to be made after the project was descoped to save money."<br /><br />Yup. That's how a space shuttle that was sold as costing $5 Million/flight ended up 200 TIMES MORE EXPENSIVE at $1 Billion/flight.<br /><br />"My point? It will be a lot, more than people say, but your number or any number at this point is fiction."<br /><br />Again you are correct, any number is meaningless -- but that won't stop people from making numbers up.<br /><br />Finally, as regards almost no science can be done on the moon. Zero gravity is not the be all and end all of science. The previous post implies that we know everything there is to know about the moon and there is nothing further for us to learn there. Not only is that incorrect, but even if it was correct, the moon is a much better staging place for flights to Mars and beyond. We will not get manned exploration anywhere outside of earth orbit until we return to the moon. <br />
 
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Saiph

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sorry, slip of the tongue. I do know there isn't a "dark side" however the farside is often called that, as such the misnomer is still relatively valid (I mean, you knew what I was talking about).<br /><br /><br />Anyway, such plans have been proposed (there's even another active thread on it) and the estimates are very, very high because it is MUCH harder to get to the moon than to get to LEO.<br /><br /><br /><br />Zero gravity isn't the end all be all of science, you're right. Then agian, that's why most of it is done on earth. Sure, we don't know a lot about the moon, nowhere close to enough IMO.<br /><br />However, at this point it is completely unjustified to send a person there for rock collecting. It's quite feasible to do a sample return mission to the moon. Robotic investigations can get a lot of the basic questions answered without us setting foot on the moon. And it'll be a LOT easier than doing it with mars (which we're doing!).<br /><br />As for building ships on the moon. Sure, that's better than on earth. But it's still really really expensive to get the materials there for assebly. Perhaps moreso than building the thing in LEO.<br /><br />BTW, IIRC the shuttle we have today isn't the one first proposed. A lot of extra capabilites were added on and scaled up through the development phase (like it's heavy lifting capability turning it into a space freigther, not a shuttle). This after the fact addition of features is one thing that swelled the price, and reduced launch efficiency. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p align="center"><font color="#c0c0c0"><br /></font></p><p align="center"><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">----</font></em></font><font color="#666699">SaiphMOD@gmail.com </font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">-------------------</font></em></font></p><p><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">"This is my Timey Wimey Detector.  Goes "bing" when there's stuff.  It also fries eggs at 30 paces, wether you want it to or not actually.  I've learned to stay away from hens: It's not pretty when they blow" -- </font></em></font><font size="1" color="#999999">The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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erioladastra

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"Yup. That's how a space shuttle that was sold as costing $5 Million/flight ended up 200 TIMES MORE EXPENSIVE at $1 Billion/flight. "<br /><br />Actually, NASA had admitted that the numbers were purposely set low to sell the project. Contractors only partly to blame in that case.
 
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erioladastra

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"Anyway, such plans have been proposed (there's even another active thread on it) and the estimates are very, very high because it is MUCH harder to get to the moon than to get to LEO. "<br /><br />But nothing really official. Here at NASA we don't even have a clear picture of what the plan will be. Anything else you read is going to be pretty far from the final plan. But agree it is expensive and need has not been demonstrated.<br /><br />(Re: dark side, come on, you are fellow astronomer, I couldn't let that go <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" /> )
 
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Saiph

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I know, that's why I accepted the tweak (and defended my honor!) <img src="/images/icons/smile.gif" /><br /><br /><br />I know there are no current plans, but I thought some ideas and estimates were floated about during the apollo era. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <p align="center"><font color="#c0c0c0"><br /></font></p><p align="center"><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">--------</font></em></font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">----</font></em></font><font color="#666699">SaiphMOD@gmail.com </font><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">-------------------</font></em></font></p><p><font color="#999999"><em><font size="1">"This is my Timey Wimey Detector.  Goes "bing" when there's stuff.  It also fries eggs at 30 paces, wether you want it to or not actually.  I've learned to stay away from hens: It's not pretty when they blow" -- </font></em></font><font size="1" color="#999999">The Tenth Doctor, "Blink"</font></p> </div>
 
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