Kerbal7

Science or Cool

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What valuable science takes place on the International Space Station that requires such an expensive system? Or are we solely having such a thing because a human presence in space
is "cool?"

How has the International Space Station improved the life of the average slobbering sportsball fan? Joe Six-pack? The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTEVIaoHBtA

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Cheap micro-sats deployed from the ISS as well as water quality and disaster monitoring would be harder to manage on earth.

The eye-tracking software that makes Lasic so much safer was developed to support the ISS.

Preventing bone-loss is relevant for osteoporosis patients(common in older men and women).

The robotic arm that was developed by Canada paved the way for surgical arms that can operate on previously inoperable tumors.

I also think many people here on earth benefit from the improved vaccines and breast cancer detection/treatment developed on the ISS.

 

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Regardless of the science and experience gained from the ISS, just being able to look up and see it pass by on starry nights and knowing that it is a piece of of human ingenuity and combined effort adds so much more worth to it. Even if you could conduct the same experiments far cheaper, a small unmanned free flying lab could never inspire the "Average Joe" in the same way.

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1 hour ago, Terwin said:

Cheap micro-sats deployed from the ISS as well as water quality and disaster monitoring would be harder to manage on earth.

The eye-tracking software that makes Lasic so much safer was developed to support the ISS.

Preventing bone-loss is relevant for osteoporosis patients(common in older men and women).

The robotic arm that was developed by Canada paved the way for surgical arms that can operate on previously inoperable tumors.

I also think many people here on earth benefit from the improved vaccines and breast cancer detection/treatment developed on the ISS.

 

I suppose we'll know if the juice was worth the squeeze if they ever try to sell it to the private sector. I don't think there will be any serious interest in buying it. That tells me the research on the ISS isn't worth the cost. But who knows, we'll see. 

1 hour ago, Canopus said:

Regardless of the science and experience gained from the ISS, just being able to look up and see it pass by on starry nights and knowing that it is a piece of of human ingenuity and combined effort adds so much more worth to it. Even if you could conduct the same experiments far cheaper, a small unmanned free flying lab could never inspire the "Average Joe" in the same way.

This might work.

Perhaps we undervalue "cool." If the ISS inspires a lot of people on to great things in science that would make the cost worth it. But the cost of the ISS could fund many, many landers and rovers to various moons in the solar system. More space telescopes. Etc. Does the ISS inspire people to great things in science more effectively than remote exploration? Good question. I don't know the answer.    

Edited by Kerbal7

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43 minutes ago, Kerbal7 said:

Perhaps we undervalue "cool."

Emphatically. It's a major immaterial good that cannot be effectively commercialized, hence taxpayer bucks.

Consider all the added GDP from the millions of US engineers and scientists recruited by this guy right here on one fateful evening.

7f7aed68d80273200958.jpeg

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Human spaceflight is a "cool" stunt.

I'm all for it, because I think it is important for humanity to strive and explore in person, as well as with robots. I think that people are interested in the adventures of other humans in a way that will never be true of the adventures of robots.

From a science perspective, ISS does nothing except "human factors" that could not be better done without crew. The same is true for virtually all science missions per unit dollar spent. People will often talk about putting a geologist on Mars or the Moon (I took some lunar geology from the only such person to ever live), and that a person can do more in a few days than a robot could do in a year... doesn't matter, the robot can work for many years, and for the cost of sending a person, you could send large numbers of robots.

 

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1 hour ago, Kerbal7 said:

I suppose we'll know if the juice was worth the squeeze if they ever try to sell it to the private sector. I don't think there will be any serious interest in buying it. That tells me the research on the ISS isn't worth the cost. But who knows, we'll see. 

Just because no one is willing to buy a worn-out used car does not mean it was worthless when new.

Also, most corporations don't look much further than next quarter, so it would not be surprising for them to forego anything that could be viewed as a long-term investment, even if it is very worth-while.

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Many of the effects of spaceflight on humans resemble those of aging. We can treat both better with knowledge gained from ISS.

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People tend to overstate the benefits of basic science research in space to humans generally.

If the question is if ISS has had anything like a positive RoI based on science done there, the answer is it’s not remotely close to that, and it has returned far less than the same hundreds of billions would spent on medical research on Earth. There is some talk of microgravity for manufacturing, but that is mutually exclusive with humans on a station (them make it vibrate enough to ruin the benefits of zero g).

ISS, otoh, has real political and geopolitical goals, which were in fact the purpose of it.

1. It was something to use Shuttle for, and Shuttle was the thing that was going to be used.

2. It kept post-Soviet Russians busy with cool space projects that was not teaching rogue states how to make missiles, and in the process created a useful working relationship between the 2 countries.

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If you ever plan to send humans further than the Moon, figuring out what a year of microgravity in close confines does to 3-6 people working as a team is very important in itself. Mir was a good starting point, but nowhere near sufficient to plan Mars mission from. ISS did a lot better, in big part due to things learned from Mir project. And there are more things we can be testing on ISS in this regard if money gets dropped for essential upgrades. Centrifuge habitat would be among these.

And while mission to Mars might not bring any direct benefits in day-to-day life that couldn't have been achieved by investing this money elsewhere, Establishing remote outposts is critical for our long term survival. I would argue that if you're not planning to leave Earth, then all of our achievements are for naught, making this kind of research the most important thing we should be doing.

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1 hour ago, tater said:

2. It kept post-Soviet Russians busy with cool space projects that was not teaching rogue states how to make missiles, and in the process created a useful working relationship between the 2 countries

So it keeps post-soviet Russians from teaching rogue states how to build rockets. And when the ISS is discontinued, RD-180s are no longer needed, and the relationship is not great... you know. Will the problem still be there?

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1 hour ago, sh1pman said:

So it keeps post-soviet Russians from teaching rogue states how to build rockets. And when the ISS is discontinued, RD-180s are no longer needed, and the relationship is not great... you know. Will the problem still be there?

A bloody good question.

I happen to be one of those that thinks that the RD-180 is frickin' awesome, and buying things from people makes for better relationships. I can understand the supposed national security idea of having rocket engines organic to the US available, but this could have simply been from another contractor (say, SpaceX or BO), while still letting ULA use the RD-180.

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4 hours ago, tater said:

Human spaceflight is a "cool" stunt.

 

I'm not sure the International Space Station is still "cool."

We just had the Insight lander landing on Mars and the MS-11 launch to the ISS. I watched both events. The Insight lander landing on Mars was much more exciting to me. And I'd be more excited to have 5 rovers crawling around on the Moons of Jupiter than the next 5 human spaceflights to the ISS. Is it just me? 

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11 minutes ago, Kerbal7 said:

I'm not sure the International Space Station is still "cool."

We just had the Insight lander landing on Mars and the MS-11 launch to the ISS. I watched both events. The Insight lander landing on Mars was much more exciting to me. And I'd be more excited to have 5 rovers crawling around on the Moons of Jupiter than the next 5 human spaceflights to the ISS. Is it just me? 

Not just you, that sounds awesome- this actually touches on the fundamentals of spaceflight coolness. Human spaceflight is still "cool," though, but after some amount of repetition it begins to... wear off. The less common and closer to the "frontier" a mission is, the cooler. Controversial as it may be in practice, few can argue that a manned Mars landing wouldn't be "cool."

In other words, it's all about exploration. Gaining as much knowledge about the universe as we can. Discovering new landscapes, new worlds, new perspectives on our own world. This is what makes spaceflight si inspiring and "cool."

If it feels boring, somebody isn't pushing the frontier hard enough.

(Doesn't mean we should lose our ground, though- I quite like the idea of having a continuous human presence in space.)

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8 hours ago, Kerbal7 said:

What valuable science takes place on the International Space Station that requires such an expensive system?

Studying humans in space ? You can't do that on the vomit comet, everyone just vomits.

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"From space I saw Earth -- indescribably beautiful and with the scars of national boundaries gone." -Muhammad Faris

"When you're finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you're going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can't we learn to live together like decent people." -Frank Borman

"I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions..." -Michael Collins

"The first day or so we all pointed to our countries. The third or fourth day we were pointing to our continents. By the fifth day, we were aware of only one Earth." -Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud

 

 

Some benefits aren't measured with dollar signs.

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If you base Human progress on how it will affect the lives of Bud-lite swilling hicks who yell at their teevees to get the wide receiver to run faster...

...yeah just don't base it off of that.

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4 minutes ago, Kerbal7 said:

I'm not sure the International Space Station is still "cool."

We just had the Insight lander landing on Mars and the MS-11 launch to the ISS. I watched both events. The Insight lander landing on Mars was much more exciting to me. And I'd be more excited to have 5 rovers crawling around on the Moons of Jupiter than the next 5 human spaceflights to the ISS. Is it just me? 

Many of us would prefer real science missions over huge wastes of money like SLS/Orion, for example. That program has literally no payloads being worked on right now. None. SLS is the rocket to fly Orion. Orion can do nothing by itself except go someplace to do nothing at all. Even when block 1b allows co-manifested cargo, it's to build a station... to do nothing. BY the time crew flies on it they will have spent what, 42 billion dollars on it (Orion has already cost 17 I think, and SLS about the same, and a few B a year until 2023 with crew). The point of course is that cancelling SLS/Orion doesn't mean 40 billion worth of awesome robots, it means NASA would simply have gotten 40 B$ less. The single best investment NASA has made in decades was the 396 million $ they spent on COTS with SpaceX. That's what produced the Falcon 9, and indeed SpaceX only really exists because of that small investment by NASA (and the following few billions in launches by contract).

The new CLPS program is designed to do the same. It's seed money to create a market. Hopefully it works.

The plus of the end result of COTS (and hopefully CLPS) is that launch costs have already dropped substantially. If they drop further, this can enable science missions at lower prices, which IMHO would be a great thing. The current paradigm is that launches are expensive, and big payloads (and/or high C3) end up being made to the highest possible standard, since if you spend 350 M$ sending it to the destination, you don't want it to fail. If the launch cost is substantially lower, maybe the mindset can eventually become to send "good enough" probes that cost vastly less money to fabricate, and hence the same budgets could allow more, and more varied missions.

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There's also all the non-medical research that can only be done in an extended microgravity environment. Let's not forget that. Obviously there's all the crystal growth stuff being done, but did you know that there's an experiment on the ISS called the Cold Atom Laboratory that allows us to do long-term studies of Bose-Einstein condensates? They're much more stable in microgravity than then are down here. There's also all the private experiments that are flying to the ISS, enabled in no small part by cheaper launch prices due to COTS.

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7 hours ago, K^2 said:

ISS did a lot better, in big part due to things learned from Mir project.

Did it? The flight durations are actually lower, especially with Western crews.

3 hours ago, IncongruousGoat said:

There's also all the non-medical research that can only be done in an extended microgravity environment. Let's not forget that. Obviously there's all the crystal growth stuff being done, but did you know that there's an experiment on the ISS called the Cold Atom Laboratory that allows us to do long-term studies of Bose-Einstein condensates? They're much more stable in microgravity than then are down here.

Addressed elsewhere earlier - for missions requiring microgravity an unmanned platform is emphatically more preferable due to lack of vibration.

Careful - you may be playing the Shuttle-style retroactive justification game.

7 hours ago, sh1pman said:

So it keeps post-soviet Russians from teaching rogue states how to build rockets. And when the ISS is discontinued, RD-180s are no longer needed, and the relationship is not great... you know. Will the problem still be there?

Unlikely. The Russian MIC is on its feet again. Roscosmos may struggle, VKS and RVSN overall do not.

Energomash in larticular is supposed to be loading with orders for Soyuz-5/Irtysh in the relatively near future.

Edited by DDE
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The ISS gives multiple 1st World countries things to do in space that don't involve killing each other.

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32 minutes ago, 5thHorseman said:

The ISS gives multiple 1st World countries things to do in space that don't involve killing each other.

As long as it doesn’t involve a drill./s

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