The International Space Station (ISS) is the epitome of human ingenuity. Through the collaboration of seven space agencies (representing 17 nations), the modular orbital outpost has been undergoing construction since 1998 and it is projected to be completed in 2011. By 2016, the ISS is expected to be retired.
The ISS has proven itself to be a long-term answer for manned habitation in space, where astronauts and cosmonauts are able to enjoy the relative comfort the spacious modules provide, often up to six months at a time. A vast array of experiments have been carried out on the station; from studying effects of weightlessness on the human physiology to understanding how plants and animals evolve in a microgravity environment; from observing the human impact on Earth’s environment to studying zero-gravity fluid dynamics. Pretty much every discipline has been investigated.
All of the experiences on the ISS go toward understanding how mankind can function in space, helping us understand where we fit into the Solar System. The work being carried out by the various expeditions being flown to the station will all be used when we make the great push to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
This all sounds amazing, but is it worth it? Is the ISS really living up to all its expectations? After all, the ISS will be bypassed if we do eventually make the trip the Moon (if the ISS hasn’t already been retired by then), it has never been a “stepping stone” beyond Earth orbit. Also, has the ISS done anything different? Surely other space stations such as Mir and Skylab aided mankind’s study on how zero-G affects the human body, how many biological tests do we need?
Astroengine Live Discussion
I am interested as to what people have to say about this issue. Is the ISS a worthy endeavour, worth the billions of dollars ploughed into it every year? Or should the station be re-vamped? Perhaps there is another application for the ISS beyond carrying out microgravity experiments in orbit?
For Astroengine Live on Wednesday 19th November, I will allot some time to discuss the International Space Station purely to talk about your views on the subject.
What would you do with/on the space station?
Feel free to leave your answers/discussion below (or email me) including your name/alias and I’ll include your opinion in Astroengine Live’s debut show this Wednesday, starting at 7pm EST (4pm PST).
(Information on how to listen in/phone in to WPRT Radio will be coming soon…)