back to article Russia's Pirs ISS module scheduled to fall away, much like Moscow's interest in the space station

Russia's space agency spent the weekend trying to get one module to the International Space Station and deciding to ditch another. The module Moscow wants is Nauka, which launched last week after decades of delays caused by problems with its propulsion systems, tank contamination, and component expiration. Nauka quickly found …

  1. Elledan Silver badge
    Meh

    With a whimper, not a bang

    After the decades of positivity and science that the ISS has brought humanity, what is happening today is already a tragedy. It's not just a matter of Russian commitment fading either. The US has set a course for a future where in a few years from now the ISS will be de-orbited, or maybe sold to some commercial developer. The ISS is a dead space station orbiting.

    What does the future of LEO space stations look like? A Chinese station is in orbit today, and the Chinese government will happily allow other nations to share in the experience from the sounds of it. Can't blame the Russians for eyeing moving their meager resources away from the condemned ISS to the Chinese station. ESA astronauts are also likely to visit this station before long.

    So that's it, then? ISS is already fading away amidst squabbling and budgetary deadlines, and in a few years the ISS and the dream of a US-led future in space will be a distant memory.

    At least NASA will have a couple of SLS rockets with as much practical use as the Soviet N1, I guess.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: With a whimper, not a bang

      Probably the reality is slowly sinking in for some, that the US has lost the leadership.

      China has masterfully exploited the greed of Western corporations by providing them with cheap labour and factories, while at the same time learning all the technology and R&D that the US put decades of effort to.

      The US essentially gave themselves up on a platinum platter for some short term gains.

      The handful of people who make billions out of this, essentially rear ended the whole nation and now can retire on some tropical island or in space, whereas the west will soon have to accept hammer and sickle into their homes.

      1. LogicGate

        Re: With a whimper, not a bang

        While many western corporations handed themselves over to the Chinese for short term profit, I believe that, right now, space is one fielf where this has not taken place. Whether the ISS will become irrelevant, with single or multiple starships entering orbit and performing the same job faster, cheaper and better, or whether the ISS will grow into an orbital servicing and refueling station for interplanetary missions remains to be seen. However, I am more optimistic about space now than I have been for the most of my life.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: With a whimper, not a bang

          Good point. With something the size of Starship potentially being used as an orbiting lab which can then land and be used again, is there a real need for an ISS any more?

          I could see one or more being fitted out as "mobile labs", customised per mission. IIRC, the plan is to have starship "tankers" too, so docking in orbit must be an option meaning longer missions and crew exchanges are possible. Maybe build a special docking "star" so multiple Starships can dock with two or more staying up more or less permanently.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: With a whimper, not a bang

        China has masterfully exploited the greed of Western corporations by providing them with cheap labour and factories, while at the same time learning all the technology and R&D that the US put decades of effort to.

        Though let's not forget that the US obtained much of its space technology from the Third Reich.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: space technology from the Third Reich.

          Early rocketry tech perhaps, and hence a handy leg-up; but the third reich is long gone, and has been so for some time.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: space technology from the Third Reich.

            Hah - that downvote'll teach you! You forgot about the Space Nazi's hiding out on the far side of the Moon!

            1. LogicGate

              Re: space technology from the Third Reich.

              That was just a stupid movie plot!

              Everybody with half a brain knows that Mr. Hitler is hiding out in his secret base on Antarctica!

              What else would U-530 and U-977 have been up to in 45?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: U-530 and U-977

                Wow ... those are some seriously exotic uranium isotopes. I guess that explains where they get their power from.

          2. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: space technology from the Third Reich.

            >Early rocketry tech perhaps....

            Early or not it took decades for the US (and others) to equal or beat the technology in the A4 (V2) Particularly tricky bits were the high speed fuel/oxidizer pumps and the combustion chamber/nozzle and its cooling systems. Until SpaceX turned up we've not done anything much in the US since the ULA's rockets use motors purchased from Russia.

        2. itsborken

          Re: With a whimper, not a bang

          As did the USSR, so what is the point of bringing it up?

        3. Sparkus Bronze badge

          75 years gone

          and 4-5 generations of engineers as well.

          Try to keep up.

          1. ridley

            Re: 75 years gone

            I think someone needs a word with H&S if you're going through 5 generations of engineers in 75 years.

      3. Imhotep Silver badge

        Re: With a whimper, not a bang

        I think you are not giving enough credit to the private companies in the US, especially SpaceX. They look to be the drivers in space now.

        1. itsborken

          Re: With a whimper, not a bang

          The US seems to have lost its way after the demise of the Shuttle. Instead, we have corporations taking its' place. Weyland-Yutani doesn't seem like a stretch anymore.

      4. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Holmes

        Sign Needed On Every Rocket Launch Pad...

        "No politics, religious texts, flat-earthers or racists beyond this point."

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: With a whimper, not a bang

      >After the decades of positivity and science that the ISS has brought humanity

      The ISS was built to tide Boeing over between the end of the cold war and the start of the forever war against the ever changing acronym. And to ensure that all the USSR's rocket scientists didn't all go IR35 for a bunch of middle eastern countries.

      The science has largely been of the: grade school science fair to encourage kids in science type of science.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: With a whimper, not a bang

        >And to ensure that all the USSR's rocket scientists didn't all go IR35 for a bunch of middle eastern countries.

        To give the Russians credit they've been quite diligent in preventing the leakage of this sort of technology to undesirable third parties. They've not been entirely successful, though. After Ukriane decided its future was with the West the factory in the east of the country that made missiles had to turn to more prosaic things --tramcars -- which left some of their engineers at a loose end. A bunch were intercepted at Moscow airport en route for North Korea. Fair enough, but about that time North Korea switched seamlessly from home made rockets that could barely get off the ground to missiles that could reach half way across the Pacific.

        Most of the world's problems can be traced to politicians and their ilk not thinking things through. Our (US) politicians in particular seem to be very good at making the first move or two but then being totally surprised when the game goes out of control. This short attention span also explains their inability to provide long term funding for anything, be it ISS or just preventing our roads and bridges from falling apart.

  2. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Maybe it's time

    Given the recent pressure leaks, it could be argued that ISS is reaching the end of its service life. Sad but, "Only the rivers run forever." I wouldn't want to be living in an orbital de Havilland Comet.

    The decision makers have shown their usual level of foresight over the next step, haven't they?

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Maybe it's time

      Some parts of the ISS are no doubt reaching the ends of their lives, hence the topic of this article. But it's very much an "ISS of Theseus" situation, given that it's all modular and can have parts swapped in and out as needed, again as per this article. So there's no need to bin the whole thing just because some bits are getting a bit old. We could still have a perfectly functional ISS 100 years now; none of the parts would be the originals, but it would still have been the ISS at every point along its life. It's not age, science or engineering that's the problem, it's simply the political will.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Maybe it's time

        The problem with prestige projects is that they only get funding as long as they are prestigious. Today the USA has bigger problems than trying to impress the crowd. (Also the crowds are not that easily impressed anymore, between what they've seen in movies, what private ventures promise, and the simple fact that the moon landing is now so ancient that those who have witnessed it as children are now of the elderly persuasion.)

        So, long story short, the USA can't afford any prestige projects anymore, whereas the Chinese need one to show the world they are now the richest and most advanced country.

        And the science in all this? you might ask. Which science? The whole point was to show off, science was just an excuse. If you need proof just check the international game of musical chairs concerning ISS astronauts: The SOP of the ISS has always been along the lines of "If you're my friend I'll let you play with my ball"...

        Sad.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Maybe it's time

        That's true in principle, however many of the component modules of the ISS are chained together and I wouldn't want to be the one trying to replace a core module onto which other modules are attached.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Maybe it's time

          There speaks somebody who has never done corporate IT

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Maybe it's time

            What a strange assertion - and very incorrect.

            I nearly replied that replacing core modules that are holding a space station together in orbit both physically and by way of facilities (plumbing, wires, power and so on) can't be harder than dealing with corporate IT and then I remembered certain suppliers...

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Maybe it's time

          And the maze of pipes and wires going through the "doors" that have grown over the years. Some the doors can't be closed, or if you do, it must be a life threatening emergency because of the services and science data connections that will be severed.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Maybe it's time

            AKA the network switch that is supported by the rats-nest of cat5 cables all strung tight enough to reach the other switch - which can't be replaced because they are the only thing holding up the first switch.

            1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

              Re: Maybe it's time

              Ouch! At least it's not in a vacuum with micro-gravity and orbiting the earth every 90 minutes.

      3. Brad16800

        Re: Maybe it's time

        I'm all for the ISS but this just got me thinking of the phrase "i've had this hammer 40 years, only had to replace the head once and the handle twice".

      4. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

        Re: Maybe it's time

        NASA/Roscosmos should google "Trigger's Broom".

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Maybe it's time

      Sad but, "Only the rivers run forever."

      Good point, but bad comparison. Have you seen how much of the "mighty" Colorado River reaches the sea these days? :-)

  3. TVC

    Anyway

    What exactly do they do up there all day?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Anyway

      The short answer is, a lot. The slightly longer answer is, a full day* of running experiments, and keeping up with maintenance and chores.

      So much so that they have dedicated scheduling tools to keep track, as you can see here.

      * The ISS runs on UTC/GMT 'days', although they get a sunrise and sunset every 90 minutes.

    2. sitta_europea Silver badge

      Re: Anyway

      [quote]What exactly do they do up there all day?[/quote]

      My guess is that they'll be pretty busy.

      Staying alive consumes most of my time when I go camping in the Pennines - a very benign environment, at walking pace, just outside my back door. Goodness knows what they have to do to stay alive when they're hurtling around at escape velocity in a vacuum.

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Anyway

        Quite a lot less than escape velocity, otherwise they'd have escaped.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Anyway

        "Staying alive consumes most of my time when I go camping in the Pennines"

        What are you doing? Hunting and gathering?

        I just take a few tins of beans, a camping stove and a tin opener!

        (And something to drink.)

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: Anyway

          Only the brave deserve the mint cakes.

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