Modern-day Icarus

1998 — Construction begins on the International Space Station, the largest most complex satellite ever placed in orbit.

2010 — The ISS is completed after more than a decade of effort and upwards of a $100,000,000,000 spent during construction.

2016 — NASA preps the ISS and then ‘de-orbits’ the 330 ton space station, causing most of it to burn up in the atmosphere and the rest to crash into the Pacific Ocean.

OK…I’m all for space exploration. Those of you who have followed Ragebot (and Blognonymous before it) are aware of my fondness for the Mars Rovers, my awe over the achievements of the Cassini/Hyuegens mission. But this…! They’re going to just shut it down and burn it up? Gods! What a f*cking waste! 

Perhaps it’s time we stop spending money when we lack the commitment necessary to realizing something positive from our endeavors.

8 thoughts on “Modern-day Icarus”

  1. The trouble I see with space activity is discerning the line between pure science and PR. From the Kennedy/Khrushchev days – the swinging dick syndrome, mine is bigger than yours. Don’t get me wrong, I was smitten from Sputnik on.
    The fact remains, both the US and Soviet were punching above their weight on space technology, and to a great degree it was a PR exercise on both sides. Sure there has been some wonderful science to come out of it, but at heart it was little more than justification for respective military/industrial complexes among other complexes.
    In a way the space station seemed like the most positive, and even co-operative program. The potential of cutting costs of deep space exploration by using a space launch platform even make the inevitable failures of cutting edge technology acceptable. But to achieve that we really need a reliable delivery system for large payloads in to orbit space. Until that is achieved the only things we can really learn are the dynamics for humans and equipment to operate in that zero gravity environment. Not a bad gain, but no launch platform on our current delivery abilities.

  2. Frogette’s right; it was probably part of a package of debt sold to the highest bidder, without their even knowing what the details of that debt’s composition.

    Glad to see y’all still hammering out a sane(ish) online reality! :)

  3. Cartledge… I agree that the ISS had some lofty goals attached to it, and cutting the cost of an exploration launch platform is certainly a great thing. But perhaps the US (with its expensive but shoddy rockets, deep pockets, and short attention span) and Russia (with it’s cost-effective and durable rockets but profound lack of financial resources) are not our best bets for delivering payloads to orbit any longer. Commercially built space elevators…or some such thing? I don’t know, but it seems as if this is one area where the private sector really is the more dependable alternative.

  4. Frogette… I think the Chinese are planning a space station of their own. But if they’d commit to maintaining it, I’d sell the ISS to them.

    Michael… :-) Is this one of those “toxic assets” the government says we need to rid ourselves of?

  5. Say it ain’t so. I thought the project was in jeopardy anyway, since the space shuttle is about to be retired with no replacement even near ready-to-launch status. That fact sure puts a premium on being nice to the Russians.

    With the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 on Thursday there is much to celebrate and laud about America’s history in space. Sadly, there is also much that is regrettable. I personally think that they should have gone with Von Braun’s plan, which was to build a space station first, then use it as a jumping off point to the moon and beyond.

    And the shuttle was just a mistake, however impressive the technology it uses. Since the main cost of a space program is in the launch, does it or did it ever make sense to put 250,000 lbs into orbit only to return 3/4 of it back to earth a week later? Not in my reckoning.

  6. Randal… Those Martians are clever though. They’re going to wait till the space station is on the other side of the planet, and then… ;-)

    SadButTrue… Seems to me that they should use the materials from every orbital vehicle launched to build the space station. Then just return to earth in a small capsule designed for that purpose. But…what do I know.

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