Us in Space


Thanks to Charles, I just found again (refound? Rediscovered!) the CBC Radio 1 science program, Quirks and Quarks, which we both used to listen to on Saturday mornings in our house growing up. (Charles – was it on about 11am? Seems we listened to it before Dad came in for lunch…) I’m amazed that Bob McDonald is still hosting it, since I’m sure he was the voice of Quirks in my youth as well, which is getting on for 20 years ago now, and he’s not decrepit… But I digress.

I was browsing the Quirks blog, and they have an item on the International Space Station, and how it’s taking so long to build it that they’re having to renovate the older bits even as they are building the new stuff on. And I had a thought – you occasionally get news items about the Station and stuff that’s going on up there (and the occasional tourist that visits – how’d you like to do that for your summer holiday?? 🙂 ) but why do we have it? What’s it all for anyway? Is is just cool to have people living in space (on a rotating basis, I hasten to add…) or is there some other purpose? It seems not to be about US military strategy, as they’re working together with Russia on it… But then, what I know about US-Russian relations could probably be contained in a Tom Clancy novel, so who am I to comment?

Just from browsing the site at NASA, it looks like the station is there to provide a scientific base for experiments and learning about the universe – and each other, as it’s a joint venture between NASA, Russia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and the European Space Agency. And it’s taken me a while to write this post because I’ve just been zoned out on the pictures of the missions and of space in general – no wonder people want to be up there…


About Beth

Canadian English teacher living in the UK with husband, daughter, imminent baby and cat...
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3 Responses to Us in Space

  1. It was on over lunch from noon to 1 🙂

    However, I must admit I mostly listen to the podcast in my “podcast queue” while commuting these days.

    As for the ISS …

    I believe the ISS was supposed to be an international effort for a preferment base in space, that would eventually fulfill a variety of missions: industrial experimentation, scientific experimentation, a base from which deeper space missions could be staged and constructed (a return Lunar mission, or even the Mars mission).

    Unfortunately, I think the ISS has pretty much failed. It doesn’t seem to have done much in the way of industrial experimentation, there has been a massive scale back of effort/resources committed by all of the partners, and – as you’ve noted – parts of it are wearing out before it is finished! I think that the ISS is to space stations what the Space Shuttle is to spacecraft: wonderfully ambitious, over-reaching, over-expensive, and over-complex solutions to problems that will probably eventually be solved much more efficiently by private industry: look at the push for space tourism these days, even to the extent of experimentation with “space hotels”.

  2. Beth says:

    Hmmm, like many government projects these days… Do you see any problem with the funding moving to private industry? Other than the obvious movement away from the research and development ‘for the good of mankind’ aspect…

  3. I can see one problem at least: we have government funded space travel because it doesn’t have to show a profit.

    So far it isn’t economically feasible to have privately funded space flight. Even the “Space Tourist” private citizens who have paid $US10,0000,000 to go into space have done so using government funded installations and government developed launch vehicles.

    I don’t think we’ve hit the technological/economic “tipping point” where orbital space development/exploitation can be taken up by private industry yet. Maybe within the decade (I’d have to do some research on companies trying to develop space tourism before I could give a more comfortable answer), but not yet.

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