Saturday, August 20, 2005

SPACE REAL ESTATE

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By Elaine Meinel Supkis

While many bloggers worry about the obvious housing bubble that will bust with a boom here on earth, we forget about the big piece of developed co-op orbiting our planet, the Space Station.

This wasn't an American project but a joint one with our allies, at least who were our allies before we decided to start wars and call our allies dirty names. The whole space shuttle mess intersects with this ongoing development disaster to make one big pickle. Like the Space Shuttle, the Space Station was subject to many compromises that turned it from a daring project as a prototype space colony into a bigger, more ungainly version of Skylab.

Skylab was hilarous because it was built by two sworn enemies who wanted to cooperate but not really so it was two utterly different systems and esthetics hooked and crooked together and used jointly and then cast off into the ocean after scaring the bejeebus out of the Australians. The Space Shuttle was supposed to open the door to many possibilities. Actually, when it was proposed, the L-5 Society was gritting teeth because the many compromises ended up confining the Shuttle to only the lower L orbits which meant one couldn't build permanent space colonies using its technology. We were assured, better transport would be forthcoming.

Like the Amtrak promises, a train too little and hours late!Which reminds me to mention, Cosmic Ray's article about Amtrak.

The Shuttle, like many of the mass group projects, betrays all sense of art and style and goes for the grey areas so beloved by government committees which is why North Korea or Stalinist Russia look awful. When there is no guiding sensibility that can say no to all the cries of rage from the bean counters and counter tenders (sing falsetto!) there is ugliness. We know the Sphinx and Great Pyramids were designed by someone with taste and not done as a government project.

Or maybe not. The hidden labyrinths could have been the prototype to the bureaucratic mind? One shudders to think.

Anyway, Skylab was small, cramped, ill sorted and oddly put together and usually, Russians and Americans bumped elbows all the time up there and were always scared no one would pick them up or remember to bring food. My, how things haven't changed!

Once again, the Russians are supplying the space station and so on. What is it that makes this so stubborn a pattern?

Well, this is going to change and we won't like it, will we? From Xinhuanet:
The Russian Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov said Friday that Russia hopes to conduct more space cooperation with China, including manned space flight.

At Moscow's seventh International Air Show exhibit, Perminov told Xinhua that Russia and China have made much progress in space cooperation, but it is far from enough.

Russia must conduct some "serious projects" with big nations such as China, he added.

As to China's second manned mission, Shenzhou VI, scheduled forearly October this year, Perminov expressed his hope that it would be successful.

When asked whether Russia would cooperate with China in developing the Kliper shuttle, a reusable spacecraft that is being designed to replace the Soviet-designed single-use Soyuz, he said that if China asks to take part in the project, Russia will consider it.
This follows on the heels of the USA musing about abandoning the International Space Station. The French and Germans are already negotiating running it via Russia since America seems to have abandoned human flight in space altogether, what with the Space Shuttle relaunches being indefinitely derailed. Again, like Amtrak, eh?

From Space.com:

NASA’s next space shuttle will likely launch in March 2006 and not be the Atlantis orbiter as previously planned, space agency officials said Thursday.

Instead, the Discovery orbiter – which returned to Earth last week after concluding NASA’s 14-day STS-114 mission – will be the next to fly, which will ease future launch schedules and allow engineers additional time to complete troubleshooting and repair work on external tanks to prevent foam shedding during launch, shuttle officials said.

“We think, really, that March 4 is the timeframe we’re looking at,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s foam investigation lead and newly-appointed associate administrator for space operations, told reporters during a Thursday press conference. “It looks like we’re going to have to do some repair…on the tank.”
I remember the early promises for the Space Shuttle fleet, around 10 launches a month to 2 a month to 1 a month to 1 every blue moon to 1=infinity. This isn't a good progression. All the while, no replacements in sight and still none. The flying hypodermic needle is a dead end. It can take humans up but ought else.

From Space.com again:
Two astronauts are safely back inside the International Space Station (ISS) after toiling outside to retrieve a series of experiments and outfit the orbital laboratory for a new cargo ship expected next year.

The spacewalk ended early for ISS Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev and flight engineer John Phillips, who were ordered back inside the station by Russian flight controllers after completing all but one of their appointed tasks.

Russian flight controllers decided to forgo the relocation of a grappling fixture for the station’s Strela boom – a two-hour job – after citing that the astronauts did not have enough consumables or time to complete the procedure. Krikalev and Phillips had fallen about 45 minutes behind schedule during the spacewalk.

"There is no margin," flight controllers said.

"Well it's a pity, we had it planned, I think we could have done it," Krikalev said, apparently disappointed. “If the decision is made, the decision is made.”

Originally slated to run six hours, the spacewalk lasted four hours and 58 minutes. It is the only extravehicular activity (EVA) planned for the Expedition 11 crew, NASA officials said.
Well, looks like they are refitting the station to be serviced the old fashioned way. Meanwhile, the Mars Mad group is squalling for some action. They don't understand that they are dupes. They have been used cynically as a tool to deflect joint efforts to save the civilian side of NASA. Now our space program, turned civilian by Kennedy, will revert to all military all the time.

Just like when I was a kid riding my trike around China Lake while the military blasted rockets hither and yon.

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