POLL: Do You Think The ISS is Worth $100 Billion?

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POLL: Do You Think The ISS is Worth $100 Billion?

  • Yes! It's worth every penny.

    Votes: 28 49.1%
  • I love human spaceflight, but that's a lot of cash.

    Votes: 19 33.3%
  • Absolutely not. It's waste of money flying in circles.

    Votes: 10 17.5%

  • Total voters
    57
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vulture4

Guest
The decision by Griffin to abandon the ISS in 2010 was inexplicable, and rationalized his cancellation of the Shuttle at the very point when it has become safe and productive. If we cannot learn to be productive in LEO, we certainly cannot be productive on the Moon! ISS requires Shuttle. It will become productive in an economic sense when we construct a new reusable launch system. Until then the practical value of the ISS will be limited to serving as a destination for new launch vehicle development and serving its original purpose, as a catalyst for trust and cooperation between nuclear adversaries. Manned flight BEO with expendable rockets, whether the destination is the moon, Mars, or an asteroid, will not occur, except for the occasional political stunt, because it has no practical value worth the cost.
 
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samkent

Guest
That link does not indicate that there IS a vaccine for Salmonella.

It says

has resulted in the discovery of a potential candidate vaccine for this pathogen.

We are still waiting for the great discoveries from the ISS. Until then the 50 billion the US has put into it is just a big jobs program.
 
L

Larry_1

Guest
No. Not when taken literally.

I believe the question should be rephrased as "Was the ISS worth spending $100B"? I say, "Yes."

What else could be more important for manned space to do up there that we could do for the last 10 years for so little money?

When your hands are tied, i.e., the only funding comes from vote-hungry politicians handing out sprinkles of cash in all major voting districts, your options on what to do with a steady income of $6-7B per year are very limited. That’s why the ISS has not accomplished much in space. They are consuming the funding by constantly going to and from the ISS in expensive job-riddled rockets.

Indeed, in this case, the limitation is going in circles with little return on investment. It did, however, spawn a new clientele in the form of want-to-be-astronaut millionaires that easily cut in the head of the line by waving stacks of paper with Benjamin Franklin’s picture on it. Since NASA built the ISS, the millionaires will come. There are 3,000,000 millionaires in the US, 10,000,000 worldwide.

If 1% of these millionaires are interested in a trip to space and pay, say $30,000,000 for a one week ultra vacation, we are looking at $300 TRILLION in funding for trips to space. Bye-bye Congressional handouts and going in circles with no visible return on investment. What does NASA need from Congress anymore? Permission to allow millionaires to fulfill their childhood dream?

And, most importantly, don’t you believe that millionaires are good at making money? This distinguishes themselves far apart from typical astronauts. Ever heard of a millionaire astronaut? Astronauts are special people that do one thing, “Devote themselves entirely to catching a ride to space that doesn’t cost them any money.”

If you take the question literally as "Can NASA sell the ISS for $100B today?", then my answer is "Heck no!" Maybe a lease-to-purchase that gets handed down from country to country or commercial space company able to launch millionaires into orbit. A risk-taking business genius is going to recognize it is much cheaper (more profit for him) to send millionaires to an existing destination in space by leasing and maintaining the ISS for pennies on the dollar than building one from scratch and launching several sections into space (Bigelow) over many years.
 
W

Windbourne

Guest
samkent":2rvh70y7 said:
That link does not indicate that there IS a vaccine for Salmonella.

It says

has resulted in the discovery of a potential candidate vaccine for this pathogen.

We are still waiting for the great discoveries from the ISS. Until then the 50 billion the US has put into it is just a big jobs program.
R&D started on the ISS in 2005.
astrogenetix now has multiple bugs that they are researching to develop new (and for a few better) vaccines.
They started going up in 2008.
Salmonella is the first of a number of them.
http://www.astrogenetix.com/pipeline

And they are apparently headed into human clinical trials.

If they can get just one working vaccine, ESP. MRSA (which is expected to be as bad as small pox was), then it was worth it.
 
B

brokndodge

Guest
Windbourne":3k159dnb said:
brokndodge":3k159dnb said:
i voted worth every penny even tho the truth is a fourth answer: it's worth it, but, i wish nasa had been just a tad bit more responsible with the money.

as an aside, why would we let $100 billion burn up in the atmosphere? could the thing not be boosted to L1 as a parking spot till someone figures out how to get some use out of it?
Please give examples of how you think that NASA was irresponsible with the money?
I'm going to have to do a search and see if I can find a detailed listing of accounts for ISS or NASA in general. I can not directly respond with specifics. I just can not see how that much money could have been spent on the project. For that matter, I can't figure out how the shuttle program can cost as much as it does. You do offer a good point tho, if I'm going to keep asking these questions, I had better dig around and find some specifics to back them up.

However, Windbourne, you have some pretty extensive knowledge of the space program. Do you think it would be possible to boost the ISS to a parking spot around GEO or L1 when it's mission is ended? I am having a lot of difficulty with the idea of letting $100 billion burn up in the atmosphere.
 
R

Redbaron719

Guest
"Manned flight BEO with expendable rockets, whether the destination is the moon, Mars, or an asteroid, will not occur, except for the occasional political stunt, because it has no practical value worth the cost."

Oh really? A recent NASA commissioned estimate places the combined gross $ value of the asteroids in the Main Asteroid Belt at $600 quintillion. Three weeks ago the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore Nat'l Lab was recognized for its breakthrough toward laser inertial confinement nuclear fusion of deuterium, hydrogen and tritium. Fusion ignition is estimated within 2 years, a commercially viable inertial confinement fusion reactor producing power on the grid in 20 years. Stage 2-a quantum leap in fusion power-will depend on access to Helium 3 (He3). There are only trace amounts on Earth, but the top 2 meters of moon soil is full of the stuff collected from the action of eons of solar wind bombardment. The market value--even today--of He3 approaches incalculability by itself. It would cost approx. $ 6 mil/kg--if you could round up that much.

Why else do you think so many fat cats like Musk, Branson, etc are quietly building toward their own private commercial fleets well beyond what it would take for tourism in suborbital flights or in NEO to haul cargo to the ISS, etc and return?
They're visionaries who seek real profits from innovation. Do you think they're risking their money in tight times for the few $ they can get from space tourism, or chump change for hauling gov't freight on contract...or are they up to something much, much bigger? (Note also that the Chinese space program is going balls out at a historically unparalleled rate in the same direction. A mere coincidence???)

Also, where's it written that chemical rocket propulsion is required for everything? Anybody thinking that outmoded thought needs to read up on Hall Thrusters fueled by xenon tanks and one of JAXA's latest gambits featuring the test of a solar sail (IKAROS) studded with solar collectors that will ultimately channel incoming solar or beamed radiation energy into pulsed plasma propulsion engines--likely of the Hall variety.
 
W

Windbourne

Guest
brokndodge":21hrzs6v said:
Windbourne":21hrzs6v said:
brokndodge":21hrzs6v said:
i voted worth every penny even tho the truth is a fourth answer: it's worth it, but, i wish nasa had been just a tad bit more responsible with the money.

as an aside, why would we let $100 billion burn up in the atmosphere? could the thing not be boosted to L1 as a parking spot till someone figures out how to get some use out of it?
Please give examples of how you think that NASA was irresponsible with the money?
I'm going to have to do a search and see if I can find a detailed listing of accounts for ISS or NASA in general. I can not directly respond with specifics. I just can not see how that much money could have been spent on the project. For that matter, I can't figure out how the shuttle program can cost as much as it does. You do offer a good point tho, if I'm going to keep asking these questions, I had better dig around and find some specifics to back them up.

However, Windbourne, you have some pretty extensive knowledge of the space program. Do you think it would be possible to boost the ISS to a parking spot around GEO or L1 when it's mission is ended? I am having a lot of difficulty with the idea of letting $100 billion burn up in the atmosphere.
Oh, there are others here with much better knowledge of space systems (though many of them also have vested interest, so take it with a grain of salt). I simply worked on one project (Mars Global Surveyor), have worked at Boeing, grew up in air force/airlines and have been a fan of NASA as well as private space program like many others here.

Do I think that it would be POSSIBLE to boost it. Sure. The question is what would you gain by doing so? You have already said that it is at EOL. Right there, that means that the canisters are shot, the life-support system is shot (particularly, the radiators), the solar cell systems are shot, and finally, the backbone is shot. If so, then if we do not have a small refinery up there (which really is needed), then the clear choice is that you burn it up to avoid other collisions.

Now, with that said, I suspect that by 2020, we will opt to drop the canisters (or move them to a higher orbit because we have a refinery), and replace these with BA's or ILC Dovers. The reason is that we can use that metal truss and various parts on it. It is a nice way to build a large space platform. I can also see us replacing the current solar wings with new and improved ones. Assume that we do not do that. Then I suspect again, we throw away the canisters, the radiators, add multiple wings of solar cells, and then send the unit into GEO. From there, it serves as a solar power station beaming energy to tugs, sats, etc for another 30-50 years.
I seriously doubt that we will de-orbit all of it. There are too many good parts to it that will last 30-50 years.

HOWEVER, if you think that it is worth while sending the whole unit up to GEO, well, I really agree with the rest.
First off, it have had multiple decades of use (from 2000-2020 at the earliest). The Mir was in HORRIBLE shape when it was de-orbited. It had had fires, a serious fungus issues, the solar cells were torn, and the electrical system had many issues. The fact is, that space really is one of the hardest environments to be in. Our CPUs in space costs anywhere from 10K to 100K EACH. And typically, they are not expected to last more than 10-15 years due to radiation bombardment.

Second, you really do not want to be in a thin metal can. When struck by radiation, it will slow it down SOMEWHAT, but will induce a bunch more radiation, that scatters all over (called scatter radiation). Imagine changing a high-speed bullet into a fragmented cannon ball. It will actually hit a person more often, then not.
Third, given the choice of living at LEO or at GEO, or even the moon, I would take the moon. Best protection, resources, etc. HOWEVER, second would come LEO. We are talking a massive improvement in radiation protection.
Finally, the question should be, what would be gained by working at GEO? There is no advantage until we have cheap LEO access and have a way to protect ourselves from the radiation.
Now, it IS advantageous to place a small stocked station at L1, as a safety place or even a transfer to different vehicles, but a BA-330 could do that job nicely. In addition, it would be MUCH cheaper than the ISS.
 
P

pollux78

Guest
Given that the space station is now being partially used as a tourist destination for the rich and famous - and will likely be used more in that respect in the future is several of these start-ups have their way, I believe that the space station has been a waste of money.

I have gone looking in the scientific literature (peer reviewed journals) for research published from experiments conducted on the space station and have found none yet. Where is all the science money going?

I think it would have been more useful to humanity as a whole to leave low earth orbit rather than be confined to it by the space station.
 
D

daztek

Guest
Increased orbital habitation is the only human-space-flight objective worth pursuing. If we can get people living healthily in space, using resources from the moon and asteroids, we can go anywhere, do anything.

Spending vast amounts to unnecessarily shuttle people and equipment down and up gravity wells, like Mars', should be avoided.
 
K

Kansan52

Guest
On the plus side, ISS helped standardized experiment racks and docking procedures that will be used in Bigelow and hopefully others. If the private stations had to do all that on there own, there wouldn't be a private station. Bigelow didn't even create his program. It is a NASA program cut loose that he took over. So all the ground work was paid with government money.

It always hard to show the monetary worth of basic research. Before the crew expanded, most of the time was spent on running, building, and repairing the station. So now, there is a better chance for something commercial coming out of that research. And at it's best, ISS is all one big experiment.

Just look at what we have learned with scheduling dockings. Who woulda thunk that!

The cost is a red herring. Few people remember the huge costs involved in having the new Russia join. That stated purpose was to help keep high tech in Russia and out of the hands of terrorists. It's worth every cent if it stopped one nuke from leaving the former USSR. But we'll never prove it. The DC-X under NASA was used in the same way. A lot of money has been spent on changes to the program over the years.

I was against that forced change to allow Russia, but they did save our tail after Columbia and kept ISS flying (orbiting). I've changed my mind for them being there. Of course, now we are going to really pay for those Soyuz seats.

So over all, now that it has a chance give us a ROI, let's eke out everything we can.

I like the one comment of $5B a year to fixed cost programs to help incubate more options. Put that on top of the current budget and we would really have an explosion in tech and jobs. Hell, maybe even enough to balance the budget (lol).

Of course, the question really is, what do we get for that money. Just one vaccine is worth it but that won't be enough for everyone. What is saving LA worth? Or Paris? Your home town. Maybe ISS will lead to stopping the asteroid that destroys a town or a nation. Maybe $5B more a year is not enough. It certainly would be easier on funding if something could be proven like that.

ISS is the foundation, hopefully a stepping stone. Let's get busy and build on it.
 
M

madskiguy

Guest
No, its not. There's not enough meaningful science being done there and we can't afford it or going to Mars to look for ice. We have plenty of water here!
 
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Scimajor

Guest
I think it's hard to dispute that the robotic missions have furthered our knowledge of the universe far more than the any knowledge gained from the I.S.S. and the robotic missions did it at a fraction of the cost of the I.S.S. . Additionally, I think the figure of $100 billion is far to low an estimate of the total cost of that program.
 
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rsteinke

Guest
The ISS is an amazing achievement, but we definitely did not get our money's worth. I think it would have been worth it for $10-20 Billion. For $100 Billion there is so much more that we could have done with that money.
 
C

Comment

Guest
NASA's job is to explore the universe. Exploration means going somewhere you've never been before and learning about it. There is nothing new in low Earth orbit. We have been visiting low Earth orbit for ~50 years already. Sending astronauts to low Earth orbit is NOT exploration.

NASA's goal is not commercialization. It is not education. (This is a worthy goal, but we already have a Department of Education for that purpose.) It is not in mollifying Muslims.

NASA's goal is exploration. As such, both the Space Station and the Space Shuttle are the worst things that have happened to manned spaceflight in forty years.
 
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Simonj

Guest
The money would have been much better spent on a manned Mars mission, or three
 
D

DarkenedOne

Guest
Simonj":1y2eeyl2 said:
The money would have been much better spent on a manned Mars mission, or three
No way. I'll take a permanent outpost over an Apollo style mission anyday. In terms of science the ISS is far more productive. They have preformed hundreds of experiments and probably will conduct over a thousand by the time the ISS is finish.
 
Y

Yuri_Armstrong

Guest
Comment":2est85cu said:
NASA's job is to explore the universe. Exploration means going somewhere you've never been before and learning about it. There is nothing new in low Earth orbit. We have been visiting low Earth orbit for ~50 years already. Sending astronauts to low Earth orbit is NOT exploration.

NASA's goal is not commercialization. It is not education. (This is a worthy goal, but we already have a Department of Education for that purpose.) It is not in mollifying Muslims.

NASA's goal is exploration. As such, both the Space Station and the Space Shuttle are the worst things that have happened to manned spaceflight in forty years.
We shouldn't have to choose. We should be able to have regular, routine access to LEO as well as BEO missions at the same time. If the government really did care, then they would give NASA the money they needed for it.

The ISS is the greatest engineering achievement in human history. I bet we will see some very good science work being done up there in the next 10 years of its life. $100 billion is probably too much for this station, I wish that it had cost less but unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world where the money is spent the way that it needs to be.
 
D

DarkenedOne

Guest
Comment":29j05lh4 said:
NASA's job is to explore the universe. Exploration means going somewhere you've never been before and learning about it. There is nothing new in low Earth orbit. We have been visiting low Earth orbit for ~50 years already. Sending astronauts to low Earth orbit is NOT exploration.

NASA's goal is not commercialization. It is not education. (This is a worthy goal, but we already have a Department of Education for that purpose.) It is not in mollifying Muslims.

NASA's goal is exploration. As such, both the Space Station and the Space Shuttle are the worst things that have happened to manned spaceflight in forty years.
Robots will conduct exploration.
 
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none12345

Guest
I wish i could vote yes....

I dont think it was a waste of money, but i think they have delivered too little for too much.

The problem is the space shuttle it was FAR too expensive to use. Most of that money wasnt spent on the space station it was spent on the shuttle launching all that extra weight(it's own 250,000 lbs) over and over and over just to get modules up. They orbited and deorbited the weight of the entire space station many many times over....

The majority of the stuff should have been launched on boosters, and lots at the same time so 1 shuttle flight could assembly a half dozen to a dozen modules at once.


Think of what 100 billion could have bought us on the moon.... And when i do that, i get sad....
 
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JonClarke

Guest
The $100 million is the estimated, end of program final cost, not the cost to date.

I thionkl the ISS is an awesome, inspiring, and immensely valuable project, well ans truly worth the expense.

And I have yet to see anyone come up with a way of generating the knowledge we have from the ISS cheaper.
 
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Skyskimmer

Guest
Yuri_Armstrong":2vd8ulwg said:
We shouldn't have to choose. We should be able to have regular, routine access to LEO as well as BEO missions at the same time. If the government really did care, then they would give NASA the money they needed for it.

The ISS is the greatest engineering achievement in human history. I bet we will see some very good science work being done up there in the next 10 years of its life. $100 billion is probably too much for this station, I wish that it had cost less but unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world where the money is spent the way that it needs to be.
This is the point people and government have no interest in space stations. It's prertty simple, and the amount of science returned is not worth it.

Exploration can be done by robots far better than by humans at a much cheaper costs even if you think otherwise in the real world it's what gov's and people are willing to pay for.

To be honest Nasa was always a waste of money. Sure it did produce results but at ten times the cost that it should of been. The space shuttle is one of these disasters, a huge money waste, it'll be remembered as the barrier that cause the birth of brivate spaceflight nothing more.

In no other aspect of governement could there be such colossal waste, the space shuttle was the biggest proof of this, if they had cut the shuttle even after it was developed they could of still saved billions of dollars.

The money should of been put into getting rocket launch costs down. Than the price of 1000/kg could of been reached in the 80's.
 
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Windbourne

Guest
Yuri_Armstrong":2jiubapf said:
..
The ISS is the greatest engineering achievement in human history. I bet we will see some very good science work being done up there in the next 10 years of its life. $100 billion is probably too much for this station, I wish that it had cost less but unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world where the money is spent the way that it needs to be.

While I am a strong supporter of the ISS, I think it is fair to say that the ISS is a long long way's away from "greatest engineering achievement in human history". When the first rockets were put up in space, that was a great engineering feat. When we built the first nuclear reactor, that was a great engineering feat. When we built the first pyramid, that was a great engineering feat.
But the ISS is simply a continuation of the work by Germany, USSR, and USA to put structures into space. Both the USSR and USA has had 1 or more previous space stations in space. These had loads of firsts. But the ISS really has nothing.

Realistically, the ISS is not that impressive. About the only thing that made it impressive is that it was a multiple nations working together. But that is about politics, not engineering.
Heck, I would sat that TransHab/Bigelow is FAR more impressive from an engineering POV.
 
V

vulture4

Guest
samkent":53hihr6a said:
That link does not indicate that there IS a vaccine for Salmonella.

It says

has resulted in the discovery of a potential candidate vaccine for this pathogen.

We are still waiting for the great discoveries from the ISS. Until then the 50 billion the US has put into it is just a big jobs program.
The story of the salmonella in space is a good illustration of the problem. A vaccine, at least for humans, would be of little use since it is rare, noncontageous, and can be prevented by cooking your eggs, which you should do anyway.

The virulence transition in Salmonella is real, and is a significant area of study in microbiology. Unfortunately it has nothing to do with spaceflight; the transition from the nonvirulent to the virulent strain can be triggered by environmental changes as simple as oxygen deprivation or a change in pH. You can easily verify this just by google search of the literature. However the position of the investigator that spaceflight is critical is quite understandable. NASA will support life science research only if some tie-in can be created to spaceflight. Without that tie-in to space, even if it is a fairy tale, NASA will not support the work, however important an advance in medicine or life sciences may be, and however obvious it is that it can be accomplished by a NASA researcher or with unique NASA facilities and capabilities.

The problem is that NASA still pushes the idea of "spin-off", that medical advances are a "free" benefit that then justifies the expensive human spaceflight. The solution is to realize that the significant life science advances actually supported by NASA (in reality only a few, but they exist, like the SBIR grant that helped develop the DaVinci surgical robot) were NOT actually required for spaceflight. An effective research and devlopment agency must go where opportunity lies without having to create artificial justifications. Useful R&D should be a primary goal of NASA, not an unintended byproduct.
 
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SJQ

Guest
I didn't respond to this poll because to me, there is a vast distinction between "worth" and "cost". I think the poll confuses the two.

Yes, the ISS is worth $100 billion; it just needs sufficient time to demonstrate it (that takes committment; finishing it just in time to de-orbit it? Insanity). Should the ISS have cost $100 billion? Absolutely not, and you can chalk the unnecessary expense up to political meddling by a collection of luddites who'd be hard pressed to wire a light switch successfully - the US Congress and Senate, and the sitting Presidents.

How many times did the ISS get re-designed prior to launch? Three, if memory serves. Why? "Oh, because it was too expensive". And as a result, it would have been cheaper to launch and fix the first iteration as necessary.

Too bad there isn't a Saturn V class rocket anymore - a couple of Skylabs hooked together would have been a feasible start, and before Bigelowe had launch-ready hardware. Now, we should be expanding the ISS with Bigelowe modules: the ISS could use the volume, and Bigelowe could use a platform to test on.
 
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