back to article Space Station in CRISIS: Furious Russia threatens to BAN US from ISS

The political standoff between the US and Russia over the latter's antics in Ukraine has put the future of the International Space Station (ISS) in doubt. On Tuesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said his government will suspend cooperation with the US on international spaceflight efforts, including the sale of …

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  1. Adus

    Space Race?

    Who knows, maybe this will make the US Government properly fund NASA again instead of neglecting it as they have in recent times.

    We could use another space race.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: Space Race?

      Regrettably, the far right complains about *any* scientific research under the complaint "we can't afford it", while trumpeting for defense expenditures and demands to invade pretty much every "offending" nation on Earth (while also being utterly incapable of locating the "offending" nation of the week on a map).

      The more fun thing is, the US GPS constellation is aging, with no replacement plans in sight.

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Space Race?

        "The more fun thing is, the US GPS constellation is aging, with no replacement plans in sight."

        That makes the creation of the European Galileo system, long seen as wasteful me-too project, seem quite rational. Who cares about GPS if future devices manage to use also the European, Russian and Chinese navigation satellites.

        1. uncle sjohie

          Re: Space Race?

          I think a lot of people would care, since a lot of consumer products like PNA's and in-car navigation systems can't use the signals of those other navigation satellites. Only more recent systems like the TomTom Go, are able to use Glonass as well as GPS.

          Professional receivers from Leica, Trimble and Topconn etc already accept all of those signals, or can be made to do so with a firmware upgrade in most cases.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Space Race?

            "Only more recent systems like the TomTom Go, are able to use Glonass as well as GPS."

            To be honest these days you'll struggle to find devices that don't use both equally. Certainly almost all smartphones built this side of mid-2012 will happily eat up both signals. I was pleasantly surprised when getting my note 2 to fire up the GPS Test app and see satellites reporting identification numbers in their 65-99 range. It's a trivial change for the silicon so all the manufacturers now just whack it all into one functional block.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Space Race?

        "The more fun thing is, the US GPS constellation is aging, with no replacement plans in sight."

        Rather interestingly part of what caused the Spacex lawsuit was that the 14 "openly competed" launches left after the 36 core block buy was handed to ULA was mostly for GPS.

        Then the USAF said some were not needed after all.

        Then it turned out that ULA gets a fixed minimum number of launches every year of the contract (which is probably the real minimum level their factory needs to break even).

        Some of those GPS birds are >23 years old and yes F9 is capable of delivering one of them to orbit, but now ULA have offered to deliver 2 to order on the same launch (and at only "slightly" extra cost)..

      3. Steve Todd

        Re: Space Race?

        No replacement plans in sight for GPS? What are you talking about. There has been a continuous replacement and improvement process in place since the beginning of the system. There are plans to launch 12 new block IIIa satellites starting this year (EDIT: ok, checking it looks like it will now be 2016) with improved accuracy.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Space Race?

        Regrettably, the far right complains about *any* scientific research under the complaint "we can't afford it"

        Right now, the US government is in so much debt that it can't afford to buy paper clips. What's your point?

        This is all the more funner when you consider that Russia not only has the last word on any and all manned missions into space, it also owns a significant piece of the U.S. debt. They literally have the Obama administration by the balls.

        Although really this particular mess is John Kerry's failure. You gotta bet if Hillary was still Secretary of State this mess with Russia absolutely never would have happened.

        1. Steve Todd
          Stop

          Re: Space Race?

          It's rather more subtle than that. The US government would have no trouble affording much more debt than they currently are running, but the right wing refuses to increase the borrowing ceiling and insists that the budget must be at least balanced. Meanwhile neither side will compromise on their pet projects or pork, making it near impossible to do so. Both sides are at fault, neither will compromise and the limit is entirely artificial.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Space Race?

            the right wing refuses to increase the borrowing ceiling and insists that the budget must be at least balanced

            Polls show that 86% of Americans are in favor of a balanced budget amendment. What's your point?

            1. Steve Todd

              Re: Space Race?

              Polls show that 86% of Americans are in favor of a balanced budget amendment. What's your point?

              The point is that EITHER both sides need to cut their expensive projects (did the word "compromise" pass you by?) or they need to increase the debt cap. They have to do one thing or another, the "crisis" is down to both sides refusing to do either, and there is no need for it.

          2. JLV

            Re: Space Race?

            >but the right wing refuses to increase the borrowing ceiling and insists that the budget must be at least balanced.

            Well, personally, I don't see what's wrong with a balanced budget, at least corrected for economic cycles.

            The problem of the US (and not only them) is that it spends too much for what it taxes. The real problem the US right wing yahoos contribute is that they do not want ANY tax increases on anyone and have vetoed budget changes to reflect that. And tax brackets in the US, as well as elsewhere, are disproportionally lenient to capital gains versus employment income.

            However, neither the Reps or the Dems have shown any great interest in reforming entitlements such as Medicare or pensions, where the real $ is sitting. Not sure where mortgage tax deductions fit in, but no one's much wanted to yank the pigs' snouts away from that little trough, despite it costing a lot and being useful mostly to richer folk.

            For the record, I heartily support public health funding, but it needs to be inclusive, not just cover old people like the US's >65 Medicare. I also support increased spending on public education, as long at the benefits accrue mostly to the students, not just unions.

            Nothing wrong with low taxes either, as long as they cover expenses and allows for spending to support people who need it. Outside of health care and education however I'd prefer to see spending aimed at poorer people, with more means testing when appropriate.

            Steady-state deficit spending is just a really crappy way to saddle younger people with debt and is not at all progressive in any way. However, it is a winner with older, and more conservative, voters in the US, as a good chunk of entitlements tend to go their way. Same problem applies elsewhere, not just the US.

        2. Malcom Ryder 1

          Re: Space Race?

          Good try on blaming the debt on John Kerry,you just don't like Obama and have to make up stuff to say

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Space Race?

            Good try on blaming the debt on John Kerry,you just don't like Obama and have to make up stuff to say

            Where did I blame the debt on John Kerry?

            I didn't blame the debt on John Kerry, I blamed the present friction with Russia on John Kerry.

            For your information, John Kerry is Secretary of State and is responsible for U.S. foreign relations. You should get a good textbook on the U.S. government and teach yourself how it works.

            The U.S. debt might have something to do with the fact that during the first two years of the Obama administration, while the Dems dominated both houses, the Dems spent $4.1 TRILLION dollars on "fixing" the economy. That's enough money to give every household in the United States $14,800. Most of that money went to the wealthiest 1% (look it up).

            Meanwhile, today in one out of every five households in the USA no one has a job, while real unemployment is 17%. Welcome to the Obama Economy.

            That's not politics, that's reality.

      5. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Space Race?

        Wait, what? They're launching a new GPS IIF-6 satellite this weekend, not 90 miles from me. And yes, it's a replacement for an aging bird.

        The "IIF" means it's also got a ton of improvements over the original satellites.

      6. F111F
        Facepalm

        Re: Space Race?

        Except the GPS constellation is being replaced as we type. GPS II satellites are going up to replace the originals, and GPS III satellites are in design/development.

    2. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: Space Race?

      Who knows, maybe this will make the US Government properly fund NASA again instead of neglecting it as they have in recent times.

      We could use another space race.

      No Healthcare for the uninsured and, inflating everyone's Dollar in Minimum Wage income is sooo much more important then Space Exploration... According to the current administration anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Space Race?

        inflating everyone's Dollar in Minimum Wage income

        Increasing the minimum wage has been historically proven to ALWAYS increase unemployment. That's why, historically, Democrats increase the minimum wage only when a Republican is President.

        1. Alan_Peery

          Re: Space Race?

          Citations please, with long analysis periods preferably. It will take a while for the additional money circulating in the lower paid part of the economy to propagate into additional employment.

    3. GotThumbs
      Boffin

      Re: Space Race?

      Doubtful under the present US Administration.

      Like so many other national issues, the U.S. will have to wait until 2016 to get some real leadership in the POTUS chair IMO.

  2. Grikath

    2020

    That's 6 years from now, when neither nation can afford to drop a prestige project like the ISS, especially when a Chinese/Indian cöop can put an alternative up in that space of time.

    I cal this ministers' bluff and raise him a couple of rocket engines.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: 2020

      The problem with this bluff is that people only have to half-believe it, for it to backfire.

      After Russia cut off gas to Ukraine last time, partly over re-negotiating the lease on the Crimean bases they just annexed, Europe spent quite a lot of cash on upgrading its gas interconnectors. It's still reliant on Russian gas, but can at least push the stuff the other way down the pipes now, so if Russia chooses to supply only Germany, theoretically the Germans could share. It also pursuaded others to invest large chunks of change in LNG - so lost Russia customers.

      Threatening to do this again in a few days is likely to mean Europe has to move to other gas suppliers, and therefore has less reason/excuse to avoid sanctions over Ukraine.

      Equally just the threat of removing access to those rocket engines means that the US government will have no choice but to find another US source. Which there wasn't at the time. Once they've done that, why pay defence dollars outside the US, when there's pork to be dished out funding a factory in someone's constituency?

      Result, loss of income to the Russian economy. Loss of trust in the Russian government. These ex KGB guys seem to be excellent at the diplomatic/tactical/military stuff, but not so good at the economics and strategy. Still, I guess you don't need to know economics if you can just nick your cash off someone else.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2020

        Loss of trust in the Russian government.

        Whose trust? Their citizens apparently love the bare-chesting (always have), the more the better, and even if they somehow lost their faith, well, past experience tells me it won't worry any government of Russia. Anyway, great news for the defence industry (no offence) worldwide, bad news for us plebs.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: 2020

          Loss of trust in the Russian government.

          Whose trust? Their citizens apparently love the bare-chesting

          The citizens of Russia don't trust their government. That might not mean they can get rid of it, but it does mean they like to keep their money in other countries. Which cripples the Russian economy. It's one of the reasons they keep needing foreign investment to exploit their mineral reserves. And the more of these international joint ventures that get stolen, or the more scary it looks to operate there, the less investment will happen. And the weaker the economy. In the end, be it military, diplomatic, strategic or political affairs - it's the economy stoopid.

          According to the Russian Central bank, $60 billion of foreign capital fled the Russian economy in the first 3 months of this year. According to the ECB that's now up to $220 billion (as of last week! No economy can survive that.

          Putin became popular because he sorted the economy out. He may be staying popular because he's making Russia look strong. But if the economy collapses, he''ll lose popular support, and have no money for military adventurism.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2020 @ I ain't Spartacus

        "Threatening to do this again in a few days is likely to mean Europe has to move to other gas suppliers, "

        What other suppliers? The US shale boom is not exportable in large volumes, not withstanding the conversion of some east coast import terminals to run as export. The global LNG market wants a huge price premium to supply Europe in preference to the shorter runs to Asia & Japan, and if you want certainty you need to contract months if not years ahead. Add in the fact that Europe doesn't have the LNG facilities to import much more than a fraction of its demand, and you start seeing problems with these alternative suppliers. There's only one country with the gas reserves to change things, and that's Iran. The west having demonised and threatened Iran (and vice versa) for thirty plus years, I can't see either side working to get Iran access to world markets anytime soon, nor being willing to cosy up with Europe.

        The EU has only three energy security options:

        1) Keep doing what you're doing, which means dreaming of renewables, whilst actually being beholden to a range of energy-rich despots round the world.

        2) Tear up their climate change religion, reinstate coal as a major component of the energy mix, and start fracking in continental Europe.

        3) Adopt a French-style solution of building nuclear power plant to cover 90% of demand, and accept that it will have crap load factors. This sound superficially attractive, but the wheels come off when you consider that the builders of nuclear power plants simply have no idea how to do it cheaply.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2020

        "so if Russia chooses to supply only Germany, theoretically the Germans could share."

        Check who is the shareholder of 51% in the Nord Stream pipeline and who is the chairman. The same chairman that told to anyone who wanted to hear that Crimea belongs to Russia.

        The Germans don't give a f*ck about anything and anyone in Ukraine and 20+ billions invested in Russia it's not a small amount of money. So what the Germans did? They cut out Ukraine and all the countries between them and the Russian gas. If the rest of Europe wants to be free from the Russian control, Kazakhstan its the only way to go (besides Algeria and Egypt for now). Its the only neighbour that Russia fears and unable to control.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 2020

      Sure, but who has a better track record in actually getting things done for their nation?

      Putin plays chess and Obama plays basketball. Chess requires a single person to use/know stratagy, the other allows other players to carry the weight of a weak player.

      I think we know who the weak player is on the national level.

      ~Best wishes

  3. The_Idiot

    I wonder if...

    ... a certain Mr Musk is chuckling to himself - even if a little sadly and wryly....

    1. Russell Hancock

      Re: I wonder if...

      That was my first thought on this one - Space X must be loving the issues if only for the fact that it highlights that having one supplier of anything is a dangerous thing - be it Space buses or toilet paper!

      Hopefully this will make NASA look at the manned version of the Dragon in a new, more urgent way...

      1. dkjd

        Re: I wonder if...

        If there is no space station after 2020 then there will be nowhere for the manned dragon to go to. I would think that the prospect of losing 4 years of NASA pork is not that amusing for them

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: I wonder if...

          In four years SpaceX will be well into the general commercial market anyway. They're using the ISS trips to test Dragon for eventual use in their own plans for Mars - the government money is just gravy.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: the government money is just gravy.

            Actually right now the government money is their meat and potatoes. In fact for all the talk about commercial space flight, the truth of the matter is nobody does without the government. We may get there someday (it's certainly where I'd prefer us to be), but we're not there yet.

        2. Scroticus Canis

          Re: "If there is no space station after 2020 "

          The station will still be there after 2020, all that the Russians can do is not carry American crew to it when the current contract/agreement ends in 2020, i.e. their threat is to not extend it. They will also lose about $60M per non-carried American so also hurts them. 2020 gives Elon plenty of time to get his module crew rated and thus more pork in the offing. The engines are a non-event, plenty of alternatives ways to launch satellites.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: make NASA look at the manned ... more urgent way...

        Why?

        The only thing NASA ever liked about the Man to the Moon program was the good publicity they got. They didn't want to do manned missions, that was shoved down their throats. They would much have preferred a series of unmanned probes that would have cost far less money. ISS is a cobbled together program that runs only because of inertia. NASA complains about it constantly because it eats so much of their budget. This is just one more issue with manned space flight, and from NASA's point of view, another reason to end the waste.

        Please don't read me incorrectly. My gut tells me you have the correct position and I'd like to see better support for manned exploration. But if you were sitting in the room with the NASA bean counters and/or Congress critters, what do you say from this incident that changes their position?

  4. James 51

    Jules Verne on Arianne 5

    How long would it take to get the rocket and module rated for human flight?

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    This is the result of NASA wlaking away from LOX/RP1 engines in the 1970's.

    Because everyone knew that LH2/LO2 is the highest conventional Isp combination.

    What "everybody" (well everybody in NASA) did not see was the permanent 90% cut (as a proportion of government spending) post Apollo, when Johnson basically called "mission accomplished" on the space race and Tricky Dicky tried to kill off the whole thing.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: This is the result of NASA wlaking away from LOX/RP1 engines in the 1970's.

      Tricky Dick had no money left, he farted it all out blowing up women and children and random AK wielding peasants in 'Nam (because the french failed to do so a bit earlier even though quite a few recycled german personnel was in their colonial army at that time).

      There was so no money left that he went off the Gold standard. The frankly Death-Star sized chickens from THAT are presently coming home to roost btw. Enjoy the guano.

      1. F111F
        FAIL

        Re: This is the result of NASA wlaking away from LOX/RP1 engines in the 1970's.

        You need to re-check your history. It was LBJ that frittered away our youth and money to prosecute a land war in Asia. Nixon was the one that got us OUT of Vietnam.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is the result of NASA wlaking away from LOX/RP1 engines in the 1970's.

          "You need to re-check your history. "

          He does (and so would I have had to in his place). But the wider point is valid - the US went through the usual build an empire, fight wars, debase the currency......and you (judging by your moniker) are now in the terminal glide phase, hanging on to your "send a gunboat" approach to diplomacy, your tenuous status as the global reserve currency, and so forth.

          I don't say that critically - Russia, Britain, Spain, Netherlands, assorted Middle Eastern countries, we've all done this. I'll credit the US of A with one thing, and that's that (in addition to being the kings of make-work and bullshit) they get things done more quickly than everybody else. In this case, completing the "empire life cycle" more quickly may not be seen as quite such a good thing.

  6. Norman Hartnell

    "the irreplaceable orbital station"

    Hopefully not irreplaceable, I wouldn't like to think that the ISS is humanity's last permanently-manned outpost in space.

    1. hplasm
      Unhappy

      Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"

      Not the last- there's still the Axiom... http://pixar.wikia.com/Axiom

    2. Irongut

      Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"

      Not to worry, still to come are ISS 2, ISS 3, ISS 4 and ISS 5 - our last best hope for peace.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"

        How will we get the funding out of government when ISS 4 just randomly disappears though?

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"

          Thats when the Chinese government steps in with funding on the provision they get to choose the commanding officer

          Boris

          1. Steven Roper

            Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"

            Of course that would be after said Chinese have conquered America up to the city limits of Washington DC and then inexplicably surrendered.

            1. displacedtexan
              Thumb Up

              Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"

              Nice nod to B5.

        2. Marcelo Rodrigues

          Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"

          I'm more worried with the ISS5 seceding, backed by a bad tempered aliens.

          OTOH, it will be the year we will make contact! :)

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: "the irreplaceable orbital station"

      Tionagong 1.

      The Chinese space station.

      Currently in orbit and being expanded.

  7. wolfetone Silver badge

    "Hello, Smithsonian? This is NASA"

    Can we have that Shuttle back please?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: "Hello, Smithsonian? This is NASA"

      "NYET"

  8. Pet Peeve

    Can someone please drop a few trainloads of money and rocket parts on Elon Musk, pronto?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "... could cripple ongoing research efforts..."

    Like floating popcorn gobbling contests or other funny experiments not suitable for TV viewers?

    Seriously, is there any research done on the ISS that's worth all that money invested? Until we discover another (faster) propulsion mode, better stick to cheaper unmanned exploration and telescopes.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: "... could cripple ongoing research efforts..."

      The ISS is an experiment. Into international space cooperation (mostly a success so far), oh and it was also designed to funnel US taxpayers' money into keeping ex-USSR rockets scientists in Russia - Iran had a $1m a year salary on offer to anyone who could help them build an ICBM in the 90s (at least according to The Economist at the time).

      It's also an experiment into large scale construction in space. Something which is bloody hard. Along with just living in space - also very hard. Yes the Soviets then Russians did manage to keep someone up there for over a year, but at one point their space station got punctured by a flight carrying the dinner, lost computers and therefore stability and power, then nearly caught fire from the oxygen generators. They very nearly died in some very interesting (and different) ways, several times over. And were nearly forced to abandon ship at several points.

      We've still not spent very long up there, and there's lots to do and learn. Plus there are many experiments into life sciences, crystalography, dark matter, environmental studies of the Earth. Admittedly with only 3 or 6 people up there, they spend a disproportianate amount of time just staying alive, rather than experimenting. But if we want to do space manufacture, we need to learn this stuff. And it's expensive and dangerous.

      I think we need to get into space for the resources and the science. Maybe even living space, eventually. Plus possible micro-gravity manufacture. The only pracitcal way to do that, is to start building stuff up there - rather than lobbing it expensively through the atmosphere. Which means permanent habitation. We've now got a water recycling space toilet. But still no space farm to do food and oxygen. So much work to do.

    2. Tom 13

      Re: "... could cripple ongoing research efforts..."

      Study our AC friend carefully. This is a tech site with people who love tech and are prone to like the idea of manned space flight simple for itself. While we can mostly agree the experiments being done are important, it skirts the specificity of his question: is it worth the money expended?

      I'm not entirely certain I can answer that question affirmatively. Sure, looking at the benefits of the Apollo program the answer is yes. But for the money expended since then? I'd like it to be 'yes', but is it? If we roll Apollo's benefits into it, are we still in 'yes' territory? For how much longer? The Space Shuttle was mostly a dead end. It didn't really advance engine technology. It's not clear it advanced recovery or insulation technology. Musk went back to square one to start his program precisely because of how dead end the Space Shuttle was. And that's where most of NASA's money has been spent since Apollo. We have gotten more bang for the buck out of the unmanned stuff which has from time to time fired up people's imagination.

      Also remember, amongst the non-technical, and even more so amongst the ideological left, there are a lot more people like AC than there are like us.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: "... could cripple ongoing research efforts..."

        "While we can mostly agree the experiments being done are important, it skirts the specificity of his question: is it worth the money expended?

        I'm not entirely certain I can answer that question affirmatively."

        I can. Space exploration returns $13 for every $1 dollar spent.

        Try getting THAT return from your bank/broker.

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: "... could cripple ongoing research efforts..."

        Tom 13,

        If you're working purely on money, it's a very interesting question if Apollo was actually worth it. Sure we developed a lot of tech - but some of that tech would have come anyway from missiles and other military work. From memory Apollo cost around $24 billion 1960s dollars! That's pre-70s inflation money. You have to look at the opportunity cost of all that moolah.

        After all, spy, GPS, weather, mapping, and communications satellites were going to happen anyway. Which would have got us some of the tech, and are the parts of the space program that have 'paid their way'. The manned space program hasn't given us a direct pay-back at all. Obviously medical sensors and such are great, but then all those billions could have been invested in medical research instead - and we'd have got the same thing.

        Again what has un-manned deep-space research got us? The earth sciences satellites and the solar-activiity stuff is important, but all the planetary fly-bys are just for fun and the advancement of science. I suppose we may have got better at geology because of it, and that does have practical applications. Obviously basic research is a public good, and you never know what you'll get.

        As you say, the shuttle was a dead-end. Although I'm not sure if that was obvious at the time - and I wonder if we were to have fewer military compromises we could now do a better job, with modern materials science. But I suspect not. I think Musk has some of the answer, with re-useable rockets and capsules. I don't know if it's worth re-using the 2nd stage or not. And there's hope for the SABRE engine too.

        But the ISS has actually achieved some practical benefits already. It's paid back some of its investment. Admittedly it's boring old political / diplomatic. But it was part of binding Russia into a post Cold War world (even though that might now be falling apart). Also it was explicitly about keeping the old Soviet ICBM infrastructure working, when the Russian economy was collapsing. That's no small thing, given that in that time period North Korea, Pakistan Iraq and Iran have all been doing heavy nuclear weapons and missile research. As well as trading both technologies amongst themselves and to others. Without the ISS, North Korea might have a working IRBM (even ICBM) to go with its barely working nukes.

        I was listening to a Radio 4 program about the disappointment about the research conducted on the ISS. I believe there's more going on now, as the thing's built. A lot of the early stages were spent putting it together. These damned Ikea flat-pack space stations take forever!

        But a lot of that stuff is still going to be basic research that has no immediate/obvious pay-off. There's the alpha dark matter detector, and aren't they about to try one of these electric plasma engines on ISS too?

        So yes, lots of ISS stuff is basically practical research into manned spaceflight. And if you think that's pointless, I guess the ISS is a waste of cash. Although the ISS has given the US the impetus to fund SpaceX, which is going to make satellites much cheaper. And that's a definite plus point in its favour.

        I'm no chemist, but I always understood that there was hope of super new medicines / useful chemicals that could only be made in micro-gravity. I don't know if that's still believed to be the case. But obviously that's going to require decent numbers of humans living in orbit. And no way is that going to happen without government pork getting laid out in vast amounts first, to learn the technology. Also asteroid mining ought to be perfectly feasible - and give us extra resources that don't kill the environment. Once you get a space economy going, it's going to be somewhat self-sustaining, as power would be incredibly cheap, once you could make solar panels in space.

        Also there's the topic of space defences. Chelyabinsk nearly took a hit last year. If the Tunguska impactor hit London or New York, you'd be talking hundreds of billions of damage to the global economy. Of course there's only a few targets that would do damage worth the investment to build counter-measures, and we don't know how frequent actually dangerous impacts are. Plus there's much ocean to act as a decoy target. But the knowledge to do this is going to be applicable to moving asteroids around, so there's a huge potential economic gain. And a Tunguska level hit in a major city could have killed several million people. Money would likely be forthcoming after an event like that. It would be so nice if we could manage it beforehand...

        So in conclusion, apologies for the mega-post, I'd say the ISS may almost have been worth it for the diplomatic-political advantages alone. It's helped to give us SpaceX, and is doing basic research into whether we can have space-based industries. Which will hopefully start to pay off this century. If it's possible, and actually worth doing.

        It's also done some basic research, and is now doing more. But that alone is almost certainly not worth the money. Anything to add? Disagree with?

  10. Heathroi

    "The political standoff between the US and Russia over the latter's antics in Ukraine..."

    There is probably plenty of murky hanky panky by all sides in that region. at the moment

  11. MacGyver

    Let's get rid of the Shuttles...

    Let's get rid of the Shuttles they said.. What could go wrong they said... Russia is our friend now.

    It's ok, we didn't need a space program, all that matters is whether or not the stock market goes up, and how much money you make as an individual. The only point to doing anything is to make money. How would people know that you are the most superest duperest guy around if you don't have lots of money. Who cares about exploring our place in the universe, give me a sweet 100ft yacht any day. Who cares about the scientific advancements we gain from pushing the envelope on what's possible, my banker says he's just developed a derivative instrument based on the packaging of home loans that just spits out money. It's great to be rich, and I'm going to live forever.

    //sarcasm

    Why do we care, clearly no one else does either.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    LOL

    "Additionally, Rogozin said that Russia will not deliver its RD-180 rocket engines unless it receives a guarantee that the parts will not be used "in the interests of the Pentagon." "

    That was funny to read.

  13. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    NUH! LAND!

    The political standoff between the US and Russia over the latter's antics in Ukraine

    Dontcha mean the former's antics in Ukraine?

    "Fuck the EU, we will have a nazi revolution emerging from this embassy ... AND GET AWAY WITH IT!"

    It's an old US thing, practiced successfully in South America mainly. But now that everything is newly under the survey of the Monroe doctrine, things are a bit changey (though not much hopey).

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: NUH! LAND!

      Yep - CIA up to their old tricks again.

    2. P0l0nium

      Re: NUH! LAND!

      Indeed ... A massive failure of EU "soft power" : A Brussels sponsored coup that removed a democratically elected president.

      Yanukovich ... 49% ... Timoshenko 45%

      What the hell did they expect the Rooskies to do ??? Roll over and play dead??

      Funny how "democracy" gets thrown out of the window when the people vote the "wrong way".

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      WTF?

      Re: NUH! LAND!

      Destroy all Monsters,

      That's funny. I thought it was Putin who was smirking and awarding medals to his special forces troops who'd just conquered and annexed Crimea. Or did I imagine that?

  14. ecofeco Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Hahahahahaha

    Hahahahahahahahah *gasp* hahahahahahahahahah *gasp* hahahahahahahaha

    You really can't fix that special kind of American stupid.

    Obvious, innit? ------------------------------------------------------------------>>

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. ISS

    Musk may have competition shortly, seems that my antigravity work may have attracted some interest from a UK university.

    Turns out that the UK Govt never actually defunded "Project Greenglow", research is still active but is kept under wraps due to national security implications.

    Same sort of idea as LENR, officially its hocus pocus but unofficially it is being worked on and incrementally improved in the hope of having a commercial product one day.

  16. Beachrider

    The Russians can withdraw, but not close the ISS

    Roscosmos is committed to support the ISS through 2020. According to the 1998 NASA-RSA agreement (MOU), the RSA can withdraw anytime they want after that.

    At current plan, the NASA commercial manned-LEO-lift ability will come online in 2017. A second commercial vendor to come online by 2018.

    Orbital-Antares (5) & ULV-Atlas (2+) claim to warehouse enough Russian-sourced equipment to last years. SpaceX-Falcon and ULV-Delta use NO Russian-sourced equipment. Both Dragon and CST100 attach to their rockets with the same technology and controls, so CST100 could launch with Dragon rockets (whenever THAT gets tested).

    ESA Ariane 5/6 would certainly be considerations, as would JSA H-IIA/B.

    Boeing's SLS isn't planned for use with the ISS. It comes online by 2020, but is priced for more distant targets.

    In short, permanent separation of Roscosmos from ISS is a horrible shame. It might bring about the closure of ISS after 2020. There are other Space Station plans that could take advantage of the opportunity by that time, though.

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