Tuesday, August 30, 2011
A Really Terrible Plan: Abandoning the Space Station
In two earlier blogs, I warned that the retrenchment of the Space Shuttle program was a terrible idea, not least because it was cost-ineffective. You have here a means of efficiently re-supplying a $100 billion-plus International Space Station, and you're going to give it up to depend on undependable Russian Soyuz rockets! Why, because of penny-pinching morons who prefer to count pennies while they now stand to lose dollars - mucho dollars!
The news this a.m., that the International Space Station may have to be "abandoned" therefore showed me the pennypinching chickens had come home to roost. This occured, since the Russian re-supply rocket (the ISS 'Progress 44' launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 9 a.m. EDT 7 p.m. Kazakhstan time, August 24) was scuttled five minutes and 25 seconds into flight, when the Soyuz rocket booster experienced a third-stage engine shutdown due to an "anomaly".
This showed in no uncertain terms the stupidity of depending upon an inferior medium for re-supply when the Shuttles had at least 5-6 more years of service in them. So what are the three remaining Shuttles doing now? Sitting in museums gathering dust! What is it about current American priorities that drives many of us batshit crazy? Well, their sheer stupidity - including the recent news that FEMA will not now be able to sustain reconstruction efforts for Joplin, MO and other tornado-whacked areas because the WH didn't ask for more FEMA funding (for which congressional denial could have been parlayed into huge political capital - but evidenlty they lacked the brains or foresight to use that!), and now with Hurricane Irene's devastation there isn't enough to go around. Smarts anyone? Anyone? Leadership? VISION?
SO now, the brainiacs who evidently decide these things, have concluded the best alternative - if the Russians have any more problems with the Progress unmanned Soyuz craft- is to abandon the ISS completely. Now, get this: even this abandonment will require at least three separate manned trips since there are 3 crew members on the ISS and the Russian rockets to ferry them back are also Soyuz- and only have room for one ISS member at a time - along with two Russian crew members!
This means three separate trips consuming enormous masses of fuel and at great expense will be needed to get all three ISS team guys back! And, get this too, there is a "tenfold greater chance" the space station itself will now be lost because the on-ground control of the station (say in case it encounters large, orbiting space debris) is nowhere near as good as in-station control. (They can't leave just one guy on the ISS because its basic running - from the solar powered generators, to environmental systems, to basic commands and micro-gravity experiments - need at least three!)
None of this need have transpired, and the worst thing is that a $100b investment (from multiple nations) now stands to be permanently lost. If this occurs, it will be a testimony to an era of unmatched human stupidity, misplaced priorities and greed. And yet more confirmation, every time I spot a new piece (say in WIRED magazine) to the effect 'people today are smarter than those in the Sixties' - that writing absolute bollocks is easier than ever.