Has anyone else noticed that the Progress is piloted by Kermit?
Look on the lower left of the craft. He is blanched white by the experience of the launch.
NASA has announced that there's a good chance that, come November, the International Space Station will be uninhabited for the first time in a decade, but the US space agency says not to worry. Much. "We know how to do this," NASA's ISS manager Mike Suffredini said at a Monday press conference, according to Space.com. " …
...that the US senate has recently gone out of its way to moon the Russians concerning the two breakaway Georgian republics and demanded that something-or-other happen about which the US has no authority (except in McCain's fever dreams), one can only hope that the Bear does not accidentally another whole rocket or start demanding cold, hard cash (and not in the form of greenbacks or T-bills) for successful launches, as it is wont to do.
The head of the programme claimed they could launch a Shuttle within 18 months.
However given the final round of redundancies completed last week and NASA's tendency for shall we say optimistic schedules call it 21/2 to 4 years.
The ISS larder is well stocked, but not *that* well stocked.
I could see this coming back when they grounded Concorde several years ago. No more commercial supersonic flight. Then the shuttle was retired. America's space program comes to an end. Now even the Russians, famed for their quality engineering, are struggling to maintain a space presence. Once the last astronauts return from the ISS, that will be it - they will be the last human beings in space.
Just as in the fall of the Roman Empire, greed, decadence, hedonism, and self-righteousness have reached levels under which civilisation cannot endure. As more and more people "look out for number one" the glue of altruism that sustained civilisation in the past will come unstuck, and, assisted by the spread of religion and superstition, we will descend into a new Dark Age. In keeping with the principle that the higher you go, the further you fall, we have a long way to fall this time; so it's entirely possible that recovery could take thousands of years, if indeed it ever happens.
Even if we did recover eventually, in this cycle we have depleted the Earth's resources, so the next Renaissance in 5000 AD or whenever will have nothing left to build on. We had this one shot, and we blew it. Perhaps Nature will decide that intelligence and sentience were evolutionary mistakes, and our distant descendants will consequently be indistinguishable from baboons.
I for one have always looked forward to seeing the end of the world, albeit that I wished such an ending was not in reality slow and messy and may take few generations - nothing like the cataclysmic apocalypses envisioned by the SF set, such as I had hoped to witness. But then, as T.S. Eliot rightly wrote, the world will end not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Is it just me, or has the past 12 years or so been straight out of a Stephen Baxter novel? A couple come to mind: Titan (obviously, but we won't get the last-chance Shuttle-to-Titan), Evolution, Coalescent (the story of the Fall of the Roman Empire through Regina's eyes is spooky).
I remember having the same feeling of dread when the Concorde was grounded, especially as the 'faults' everyone crowed about were only due to a slack-arsed yokel contractor doing a near-enough-is-good-enough job on a completely different plane, and the different airline did the 'lalalala it wasn't US it was our third-party contractors, your honour' dance.
If humanity couldn't be arsed to get something as downright simple as a conventional airliner working properly, let alone an SST (yes, looking at you A380, B787) there seems to be little hope for space.
Yes, religion & superstition are back. Hedonism is cool. Violence now seems to be everywhere - not the fault of video games / comics / the latest moral panic - but the fault of lack of education, ignorance and just plain arseholism. Oh, with a good bit of my god is better than yours biffo thrown in.
Playing Fallout 3 seems more and more like practice rather than entertainment; Stephen Baxter reads like a prophet rather than entertaining fiction.
I've been reading Iain Banks lately, so I was sort of hoping The Culture might drop by; my guess is that T.S. Eliot's 'bang / whimper' is going to be a long, drawn-out wail.
FAIL - because homo sapiens sapiens has become homo baka moroniens
Indeed, I'm also quite disappointed by the lack of Concorde Mk2.
But my point was only to clarify the fact that the retirement was not due to the crash, but simply due to the age limit of those splendid birds...
<Insert "Sadfrog" picture with a "Concorde's gone for good - Too later for Mach 2 travels" caption>
The Russians were *well* ahead of the USA during the space race much to the consternation of flag waving morons such as yourself who couldn't fathom the concept that people other than Americans could achieve such engineering feats. This "grave" situation eventually prompted JFK, in a fit of desperation, to make his "Americans will stand on the moon before the end of the decade!" speech.
This came as something of a surprise to NASA apparently who were then forced to play catch up to the Russians until the alleged moon landings in July 1969.
It's nice to see that there are still plenty of Americans out there who believe that Uncle Sam has some sort of god given engineering pedigree that couldn't possibly be matched by dirty foreigners.
I haven't seen any evidence that they landed on the moon any more than I have seen evidence that everything happened just like they say it did in the Bible.
Until that happens I will reserve judgement.
You OTOH can carry on believing whatever helps you make it through the night, it makes no difference to me what you believe.
Why does my belief system concern you?
Logic doesn't work that way. You say you have seen evidence, how about you help me out and tell me all about it.
Before you do however, grainy, easily faked film of guys in astronaut suits being shown on TV does not constitute evidence of moon landings any more than footage of the Death Star sitting in the middle of a bunch of rubble is evidence that Alderan was destroyed by the galactic empire.
"The Russians were *well* ahead of the USA during the space race much to the consternation of flag waving morons such as yourself who couldn't fathom the concept that people other than Americans could achieve such engineering feats."
The Soviets (remember that substantial parts of the Soviet space programme involved the Ukraine) got off to a good start, apparently having had access to expertise in precisely the kinds of technologies that would be required for orbital rocketry even before WW2, which is why the US didn't have the kind of head-start that V2-fetishists would have had everyone expecting.
But it was the move to larger payloads that derailed the Soviet lunar efforts, partially through lack of funding, but quite possibly also through a lack of more general technological expertise (similar issues plagued the Tu-144's development) and the huge organisational challenges, plagued of course by Soviet shark tank politics (there were at least two competing proposals for lunar missions). Once things settled down, the Soviets did manage to deploy the necessary hardware, but by then the Soviet economy really couldn't afford to keep such a programme going.
Oh, and the "alleged moon landings" statement is simply puerile.
Having met, had dinner with and spent a not inconsiderable amount of time debating tech with Charlie Duke I have to say, you sir, are talking out of your bottom on the conspiricy theory.
Going to the moon changed the way Charlie (and the others) look at the world and civilisation in quite a major way, I somehow dont think that would happen in a Studio.
The Americans pulled decisively ahead of the USSR during the Gemini missions when the Soviet programme was effectively grounded. Their Voskhod manned capsules were death traps and the Soyuz programme was well behind schedule and of very poor quality - let's not forget Soyuz 1 killed its pilot.
Gemini on the other hand showed the Americans could manoeuvre freely in space, conduct long duration missions and repeatedly perform rendezvous - something the Soviets did not master until much later. At the same time the Americans had perfected large rocket engines and were able to get their bigger, heavier Saturn V off the pad with just five engines compared to the N1's 30 - which unsurprisingly, didn't work well.
Where the Soviets did score was that when they finally debugged their simple designs they proved exceptionally reliable - it's not poverty that's kept them using the Soyuz and Proton boosters - it's because they've had an epic success with them. And the Soviets did perhaps produce the best main engine ever designed for the N1 - used individually or in pairs it's been a huge success on the Atlas V.
I think the failure was all political - concordski and whatever their shuttle was called (paperdartski?) - politically driven efforts to shore up a clearly morally,economically and idealogically bankrupt system.
but some of their kit is pretty good - mig (insert number here dependent on your age) was ALWAYS something that caused brown trousers to an opponent (assuming russian aircrew)
AK47 anyone? may not be the best gun around but fuck me theres a lot of em, and that must be for a reason.
and lets not forget that pretty much the only space based race they lost was the one to the moon - admittedly a biggie.
That mahoosive ground effect thing with a dozen engines traveling 600and odd mph at 20 feet!
loads of good kit.
You're right to be not so sure,
There is a common theme to a lot of Russian aviation technology, their inability to make a big powerful and efficient engine.
The N1 used 30 main engines against the Saturn Vs 5, the complexity of the plumbing to feed 30 engines with both fuel and oxidiser along with the complex vibration modes of 30 engines is what probably caused the failure of the N1.
It is the same with a lot of Russian aircraft as well, the reason the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear has turboprop engines is that at the time of its development the Russians did not have a jet/turbojet engine that would give required intercontinental performance. Similarly the MIG 25 Foxbat outperformed most western aircraft of its era, but it’s combat radius was only 186 miles, making it a little more than a point interceptor.
This in turn may have led to the Russian interest in ekranoplans or ground effect vehicles, since they offer good fuel efficiency despite numerous other disadvantages. Personally I wouldn’t care to me travelling in a 500 ton flying machine at 350 miles an hour at 40 feet above the ground, especially when that flying machine wasn’t able to climb much higher than 60 feet and at that height the horizion is only 13 miles or 2 minutes flying time away. Bad news if the 209 foot tall MV Freedom of the Seas is just below the horizon.
Incidentally one of the big names the ground effect was Alexander Lippisch, designer of the German WWII Me163 Komet rocket fighter, and ground effect aircraft were flown before WWII, so no prizes to the Russians for innovation there either.
The comment is heavily Western-centric. The USA, Russia and Europe aren't the only civilisations on this planet. There's no need to think that just because the western economy collapses that other parts of the world won't continue to develop and surpass the 'old' empires.
"Just as in the fall of the Roman Empire, greed, decadence, hedonism, and self-righteousness have reached levels under which civilisation cannot endure. As more and more people "look out for number one" the glue of altruism that sustained civilisation in the past will come unstuck, and, assisted by the spread of religion and superstition, we will descend into a new Dark Age."
Actually, it was altruistic motives that are bringing about our demise. Every decent person wants to take care of people, but the very act just makes people more dependent on you. The notion of "Tough Love" is a hard pill to swallow, but until we toss people out of their taxpayer funded nest and make them live on their own merits the problem is going to continue to grow.
When you start paying people to do nothing with their lives, then nothing is exactly what people will do.
And I'm sure neo-capitalism / tea partyism aka Ultra Thatcherism will save us all </sarcasm>
The biggest problem is nit wits, who decided that the mighty pound/dollar/currency profit was worth more than than retaining skills, keeping people in good skilled employment rather than stacking shelves, flipping burgers or washing cars on the minimum wage.
We are going backwards as muppets like the "Taxpayers Alliance" think private industry should do everything, but they want to pay for none of it, until for example a huge sinkhole opens up in their road, then they scream for someone to come sort it out at no cost to themselves....There is a word for people like that "Selfish"
Shame CMD and Chancellor Gideon think private industry is a solution to everything, including ship salvage, I'm sure an oil slick with the potential to cause billions of pounds of damage and kill thousands of birds, fish and other animals, will hang around without moving for 4 weeks while the ship operators search for the lowest bidder, and await their arrival weeks later, likely from SE Asia....yeah right. Common sense is to retain the coastguard tugs and pass the bill onto the ship operators, no debates, no arguments, sail in our waters, take account of the chance you might need towed and budget accordingly. However that would upset CMD's mates and reduce their chance to make a "profit"
Same thing applies to the NHS...more fiddling with the strings rather than focusing on how to make it work.
Biggest problem this world has is the large % of idiots of all flavours right wing loons like CMD and UKIP, ultra right loons like the BNP and NF (and the other knuckle draggers), middle England curtain twitchers, religious fruit loops, moomies who can't parent to save themselves and grotty left wing pillocks like the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, who think its perfectly acceptable to grope yourself and then smear your grotty hands on someone else's property under the banner of "political protest" (Google Paul Donnachie St Andrews University)
There are times I think we need a far centre dictatorship, with the mandate to find out what *most* people deem acceptable (membership of any religious or puritanical group bars you from commenting under the heading of insanity) and from then on make no significant changes, sticking to small alterations to keep things current. Also any offence should pass the "common sense" and "would I do this" test, if it sounds stupid and the "average" person would do it (either sober or after x shandies)....its struck off the list (ie format shifting, skinny dipping etc)
"And I'm sure neo-capitalism / tea partyism aka Ultra Thatcherism will save us all </sarcasm>
The biggest problem is nit wits, who decided that the mighty pound/dollar/currency profit was worth more than than retaining skills, keeping people in good skilled employment rather than stacking shelves, flipping burgers or washing cars on the minimum wage."
Because waste, inefficiency, and free handouts has been doing a bang-up job so far. Are you REALLY suggesting that it's better to keep an unneeded job (or 10, or a thousand) than to save the rest of the jobs in the company by cutting someone loose?
I think we have to take pioneering out of the hands of the politicians as their interest wanes and shifts too fast to be trusted with the future of the human race. Politicians cannot be relied upon. So as much the politicians would like us to believe its them who make the changes for the future, its not them, its the engineers & scientists and the companies around them that change and build the future for us all.
So in that regard I see SpaceX as one of the leaders of this new way of thinking about space as a business opportunity, rather than having to trust in very politically influenced and ultimately politically funded and therefore politically run organizations like NASA.
Also reading the comments above I'm reminded of the way pioneering progress was made by our previous generations. In particular I was thinking about the growth of the Industrial Revolution, especially around steam engines and trains and how political infighting and lack of support even back then ended up delaying and often undermined progress, yet through it all engineers drove progress on, ultimately to help transform the world to where we are now.
Engineers & Scientists change the world not politicians, so we cannot trust politicians to help us build the future of the human race.
The simply fact is we have to stop trust politicians at all, no matter what party they are in. They are all so too faced that they can't be trusted and history shows so many times how politicians have undermined progress as soon as it suits their own political power games.
Our future is too important to be trusted to the self interested politicians, regardless of which political party they are in, as none of them can be trusted and so unfortunately its better off simply not trusting any of them, rather than keep being betrayed by their self interested power games. Ironically we are better off without politicians in the way, as they ultimately don't help progress. Its the Engineers & Scientists who change the world and the companies around them. They are the key to our future.
We have astronauts from Japan (1), USA (2), Russia (3)
I wrote my representatives explaining that it would be very embarrassing if these astronauts died because we decommissioned the shuttles instead of putting them into storage in case of emergency. Maybe FEMA has a plan.
The ISS has always had Soyez docked for emergency evacuation. You cannot use a shuttle for that because it needs too much pre-work before undocking, and can only re-enter at certain times. The crews have no problem of needing to leave, only that it is unfortunate if it happens before the next crew arrives.
As for crew rotation, that isn't done using Shuttle because it is recognised that the Shuttle doesn't have a perfect track record (It's also very expensive). The Shuttle was only used to ferry parts that were too big to take up by other means.
I think that this is the first loss of a progress craft after a LOT of flights, so it can generally said to be OK, although the recent trend is worrying.
As for US / Nasa launches, do you forget the recent loss of the Glory satellite that occured because the shroud did not separate? And it was a repeat of the same satellite on the same rocket, with the same failure even after an investigation into the first failure, and clearance to launch again.
My understanding is that the astronauts on the ISS have and old Soyuz capsule that they can use to return if things get a bit sticky. So if they run out of supplies they could use that to return.
A teenager in a looted hoodie, tweeting whilst watching celebrity big brother. This is how the world ends.
" NASA's ISS manager Mike Suffredini said..."
Now if the ISS can remain on orbit indefinitely, why will it need to be de-orbited in (choose a date 2015, 2020, 2025, 2028...)? If it can remain on orbit indefinitely, why do we keep sending fuel up to it? Can it really stay up there indefinitely without Progress going up all the time?
Did someone from Nasa really say that?
Atmospheric drag, yes there is some atmosphere where the ISS orbits, slows the station/ship down slowly. As it slows it goes lower where there is more drag and repeat until you de orbit (crash).
Periodically you need to boost the stations orbit for it to stay up there, that takes fuel hence one of the reasons for the re supply missions.
When SpaceX launched their Dragon capsule, it contained a large wheel of Cheese. The cheese returned to earth unharmed. No excessive G force, no exposure to Vacuum, no exposure to high or low temperatures. Basically, if the cheese survived, it's a pretty fair bet a human would too.
SpaceX have a supply mission to the ISS lined up for November and could probably (I don't know the details of what's involved) swap that for a Dragon capsule to swap out a few astronauts.
Could this be the beginning of the true commercial space industry?
As it was in the 50's, 60's and 70's
That's the 1850's, 60's and 70's.
Will all those who feel that way give in to *your* despair and kindly purge yourself from the gene pool.
No one is going to die on ISS because of this situatino.
It is likely they will not be able to resolve this for the 1st group to come down and they will come down in Sept. *If* they still can't resolve it by Nov them the 2nd come down, taking out the rubbish, switching everything to remote control etc.
Frankly I'd suggest getting Soyuz to fly on an Atlas is closer to flight ready (possibly with the Boeing CST-100 capsule behind as it's already had LAS tests) than
BTW if you think my words harsh you might like to look up Chuck Yaegers thoughts on hearing of the Challenger crash.
This isn't the end of the world.
So it's been 40+ years since man was on the moon, and we're slowly figuring out that it is an expensive waste of money to put people on this thing for months.
Manned space flight is a nice idea - I would love to go up in my lifetime. But the fact it is still state funded speaks volumes. It just isn't worth the money. All this talk of miracle drugs and new alloys requiring scientists in space... sure.... so why aren't the big drugs companies funding these programmes to the tune of billions? They spend enough on research, and still make mega-profits. The fact is we put people in orbit so have to find them something to do. We're not putting them there because there is important stuff to do.
Space is not useless - it's very useful as evidenced by the hundreds of satellites in orbit. But manned space flight just serves little purpose other than national pride.
And before anyone reminds me of Armageddon and other threats to the earth - sure... if a big rock is detected, I guarantee you it's going to be a robot mission and not some redneck oilman they send up. Ok?
Maybe in 50 or 100 years, technology will improve, you can get into orbit without destroying 100m dollars of spacecraft in the process. And we will find something profitable for people to do up there. But until this happens, it's really serving no purpose. I'd sooner see the money spent on a bigger telescope to spot those rogue asteroids, rather than in craft to take people to land on ones we already know about.
Like the Hubble?
It's amazing how much better the view is when you don't have a few hundred miles of atmosphere screwing with things. That and, well, finding a way of producing energy off-world might be good for the climate on-world, ya know? Do all the dirty stuff on a dead planet or other floating rock, and send the hydrogen or whatever other storage medium over here for use in keeping people alive and supplied with iToys.
It might be expensive right now, but that doesn't mean it will still be so in 50 or 100 years. Just think, only 100 years ago, someone made the first journey into the sky. Just a few years prior to that, people were saying it was impossible for humans to fly. Now, while aircraft aren't exactly 10p a dozen, they are more than affordable enough for wealthy individuals and other private interests to be able to turn a profit. I see no difference between that and asteroid mining.
Journey of a thousand miles, single step, and all that.
Not really, IRRC it was the 11th or 12th Keyhole / Crystal, so it must have been pretty much surplus / spare change by then. Anyone remember 'Keyhole' before Google bought it? It was called that for a reason...
A shame that all that superb technology was spent on paranoia and pork barreling. Imagine the astronomy with 12 Hubble-class telescopes! Orbital multi-element interferometry with a base-line the size of LEO? Yes please! We would have discovered plenty of planets by now, and picked up chlorophyll spectrum from a couple as well; probably a would have found a few GSVs too.
Ah well, at least we got Saddam's WMDs and stopped all those terrorists! Oh, wait....
"Not really, IRRC it was the 11th or 12th Keyhole / Crystal, so it must have been pretty much surplus / spare change by then. "
A popular UL bolstered by 2 things. The solar panels "waggled" badly because they had been picked up from a US surveillance satellite design operating at higher altitude with lower atmospheric loads and the company who manufactured the optics did those for at least some of the US spy sats.
However it was NASA that detected the testing machine bug that meant the mirrors had been precisely the *wrong* shape.
Both had to be fixed during a Shuttle servicing (the first?) mission.
... , such as making sure that the salary of a space engineer is higher than the salary of a cell phone salesperson"
Heck! OF COURSE! A good salesman is an asset for a company, and create "value".
Space engineers.... bah! No money to be made in maned flight! useless job!
Welcome to the modern free market world...
(insert Sadfrog icon here)
One word: Skylab.
The shuttle program was SUPPOSED to be ready before it crashed into the Oz outback.
So, when will the ISS crash? I suspect it will be a few years out, but given how governments spend (or not as the case may be) I give it around 10 years or so before we here on terra firma are picking up the pieces (regrettably!).
...apparently, it can still find catastrophic failure, given you are dealing with *lots* of explosive materials. No matter if it is Russian or American or Chinese. I'm just glad that people aboard are not *stranded*, they can still bailout on their own accord on a capsule. Can they?
As for leaving it there uninhabited, well... a couple hundred of satellites already do that... convert it to a TV relay satellite behaviour and you can still rent it while empty.
You can even take the keys, and leave the lights on, the landlord won't mind. Or you can hide it under the space rug (tm) for the next crew.
I am sure we could have kept spacelab up in orbit and such but no..... lets keep a space station just low enough so that will degrade over time and fall back to earth.
Who is Russia to say they can do this to the station?
Has NASA really given up control of the station? Any legal recourse?
I am sure Americans will be upset yet once again to see a station costing us tons of money to be seen trashed and sent back burning up in earths atmosphere.
Seems like a waste of money to me.
The trouble is that height = money. If you put it up hgh enough that it has an indefinite lifespan then it also costs you unbelieveable amounts of money to get there - even if your vehicle can. The Space shuttle, for instance couldn't get high enough with a decent load on board if at all.
I haven't seen any evidence that they built an International Space Station any more than I have seen evidence that everything happened just like they say it did in the Bible.
Until that happens I will reserve judgement.
You OTOH can carry on believing whatever helps you make it through the night, it makes no difference to me what you believe.
"I haven't seen any evidence that they built an International Space Station any more than I have seen evidence that everything happened just like they say it did in the Bible."
Then, your an even more incompetent astronomer than me or you haven't looked for it.
At the right moment, on a clear night, you can observe it from the ground with a decent pair of binoculars.
People have taken photos using small telescopes.
NASA helpfully provide an applet to show you where to look.
Who cares. Let the bugger crash. just kidding, got your attention though.
The first hundred missions for the shuttle were military missions. (TRUTH I have 1970's dox)
I am not convinced an ISS was their original goal. (OPINION)
I think the goal might have a branch, "weather control." (OPINION)
another interfaced with the UN and CARBON TAX, and deception. (OPINION)
I think they have some other bird that flys. (OPINION)
Keep it above the atmosphere and below the Van Allen belt(s*)
At one time (I would imagine) we could go to the Moon.
*One big radiation belt or two? I am thinking one with a _knock out your pansy ass sensors_ region in the middle, but that might have changed.
It isn't complicated, if the Russians cannot safely launch, then the ISS will have to be eventually evacuated. Fantasizing about reanimating the Shuttle program is just that. Not going to happen.
The American commitment to the ISS is through funding and monitoring commercial launchers. Dig we must.
COTS looks good in 36 months, perhaps sooner.
1st scheduled docking with ISS by a COTS winner was the Dragon on Dec 8th (*exactly* 1 year to the day from Spacex's 1st Dragon launch).
*Could* still happen. Depends how much *active* help the docking system needs and if it can be handled from the ground.
It's the lauch escape system Spacex is working on that's on a 36 month development schedule. c April 2014 latest.
However the Boeing CST-100 has *already* test fired it's escape system and *might* be capable of being carried by Falcon9.
All this fuss over the escape systems - just leave it off.
Space is a frontier and will be for decades to come. People die exploring frontiers sad but true.
There are literally millions of people who would volunteer to be astronauts on a capsule without escape systems - I would for sure. Recruit solely from the military if you must most have already made a conscious decision about the risks of death in doing their jobs.
Space travel is risky accept it and move on. When we start send tourists to the first space hotel - then is the time formhelath and safety - not before.
At this rate China will win the next space race - purely because they understand risk vs reward far better than we do nowadays.
... or lack of it.
In Space Science, failure to spend enough to make something work properly the first time usually leads to a LOT more being made available to "do it right".
Conversely, getting it right the first time is often rewarded with a budget cut,
Let's not kid ourselves, the russian systems have been running on impossibly tight budgets for years. Sooner or later that means something breaks or someone burns out.
There are alternatives for getting supplies up to ISS and for boosting, but they tend to cost a lot more than Progress and may not be available in the next 6 months. The sky is not falling and nor is ISS (My preferred name is "International Upper Atmosphere Skimmer")
Only a very few people have really been into space, the rest have merely had a taste of it. Rockets work but they're not nearly as efficient as we need to make it properly affordable.
Oh noes! No ruskie flights, no Nasa, guess that means we'll have to give up!
Has everyone forgotten SpaceX and the other private space companies? This is their moment to step up to the plate and show what private space enterprise can do. The Falcon 9 has successfully put stuff in LEO, and its already got the ISS resupply contract. Time to speed up the program?
"Has everyone forgotten SpaceX and the other private space companies? This is their moment to step up to the plate and show what private space enterprise can do. The Falcon 9 has successfully put stuff in LEO, and its already got the ISS resupply contract. Time to speed up the program?"
On the basis you're not a troll here's why you're wrong.
Spacex and the other CCDev winners (Boeing, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada Corp) all need a *crewed* station to dock to and *none* have completed the work to allow *them* to carry crew yet.
Spacex's schedule calls for their LAS to be ready by April 2014 at the latest. In *principal* the Boeing CTS-100 is the most advanced as it's LAS has *already* been ground fired. But like the rest (IE not Spacex) it depends on crew rating the Atlas V, which does not seem to have a timetable.
NASA is *highly* unlikely to allow a 1st launch with a crew and will want 1 or 2 tests of the launch escape system (on the pad, at maximum dynamic pressure in flight or both) and multiple cargo flights first (The Russians are expected to fly 2 cargo flights first before allowing another crew flight). It's not a disaster but it's pretty serious.
This'll be unpopular, but I have to ask what's the point of the ISS?
It wasn't a waste of money doing it. we've learned quite a lot from the process. But as far as I can tell, one of those things is that there's no particular point left keeping a few men in an orbiting laboratory.
I'd suggest that the money should be spent developing robotics and telepresence (Waldo-onics?), so we can still service useful things like orbital telescopes, without having to lug a human life-support system into orbit.
Sad, but it looks true to me.