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posted by martyb on Saturday March 25 2017, @01:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the status-is-up-in-the-[extremely-rarified]-air dept.

NASA will operate aboard the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024, but there is no consensus on what do after that year. There is some talk of commercializing the station (and a Bigelow Expandable Activity Module is already attached to the ISS):

The United States' ability to send astronauts to Mars in the mid-2030s depends in part on cutting back or ending government funding for the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024, the head of a congressional subcommittee that oversees NASA said Wednesday (March 22). "We ought to be aware that remaining on the ISS [after 2024] will come at a cost," U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Space, said during a hearing about options and impacts for station operations beyond 2024. "Tax dollars spent on the ISS will not be spent on destinations beyond low Earth orbit, including the moon and Mars," Babin said. "What opportunities will we miss if we maintain the status quo?"

[...] [NASA Associate Administrator Bill] Gerstenmaier, who oversees NASA's human exploration programs, urged Congress to plan a smooth transition from the station to beyond-low-Earth-orbit initiatives, with an eye on preserving U.S. leadership in space, especially with China planning to launch a new space station in 2023. [...] Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration advocacy group, warned that ending the U.S.' efforts at the station too early could nix budding commercial space companies, some of which might eventually support the station's continued operation as a commercial outpost. "Applications with strong market potential are emerging," Dittmar said. "Abandoning the ISS too soon will most certainly guarantee failure."

[...] While Congress ponders the station's future, NASA should expand its partnerships with private companies, urged Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based industry association. "The NASA investment[s] in these partnerships are already paying huge dividends," Stallmer said. For example, by partnering with private companies, NASA has been able to cut its costs to fly cargo — and, soon, crew — to the station, compared with what it spent to operate its own fleet of space shuttles, which cost about $500 million per mission to fly.

Also at The Verge.

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  • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Monday March 27 2017, @06:06PM (2 children)

    by bob_super (1357) on Monday March 27 2017, @06:06PM (#484751)

    We should at least boost the ISS so high that it stays up there until someone in a few decades decides they can find some use for it. We can attach a few external instruments to it, and come service them, even if humans don't live inside permanently.
    That'd be smarter than just letting it fall down.

    I've already said that slow-boating it via ion drive to a moon orbit might turn out useful down the road.
    Sure, it's not designed for it and may just fail, but if it was built with just enough overkill, spending a bit of cash to try to reuse even part of it, is better than watching >$100000000000 fireworks then restarting from scratch. Some of the modules are pretty new.

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  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 27 2017, @07:09PM (1 child)

    by VLM (445) on Monday March 27 2017, @07:09PM (#484791)

    Some of the modules are pretty new.

    One very stereotypically NASA problem is the latency to spin up a program is longer than the lifespan of a lot of hardware in space, which is crazy but true. So if it were boosted into higher orbit unfortunately by the time we get around to using it, that stuff is going to be really old.

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday March 28 2017, @12:32AM

      by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday March 28 2017, @12:32AM (#484956)

      I'll still take one huge old chunk of metal potentially tumbling erratically in high orbit, over a cute splash in the ocean.
      I don't own satellites, obviously.