Sunday, November 30, 2008

Is it Just Me? US Space Program Costly in this Economy

Is it just me or does anyone else think that continually flying the space shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS) in this economy is ridiculous. At a time when we are handing out 100's of billions of dollars of taxpayers money to bailout failing banks, automobile manufacturers, and now people who let themselves be duped into buying more house than they could afford with no money down, we should be cutting back on unnecessary spending. Now don't get me wrong, I am pro-science and an environmental scientist myself but every time we launch a shuttle it cost the US taxpayers. The space shuttle Endeavour cost 1.7 billion dollars, and every time it is launched it cost approximately 450 million per mission.

Yes, I now that we have personnel on board the space station that need to be replaced ever so often. The space shuttle also carries vital supplies to the space station. However, It is in the name of the space station, International. The US should let some of the other countries shoulder the burden. The ISS is the largest international scientific and technological endeavor ever undertaken, It draws on the resources and scientific expertise of 16 nations around the world. Canada, Japan, 11 members of the European Space Agency, Russia and Brazil are our partners.

There are other space vehicles. The Russian's have the Soyuz it is used primarily to deliver crews to space. Furthermore, Russian cargo ships have been used to deliver supplies to the ISS. The Chinese have developed the Shenzhou spacecraft to support its manned spaceflight program. The European Union has developed the Ariane 5 , an expendable launch designed to deliver payloads into geostationary orbit transfer orbit or low Earth orbit. In March 2008, the first Ariane 5 ES-ATV was launched to deliver the first Automatic Transfer Vehicle (ATV) called Jules Verne to the ISS. The ATV is an expendable, unmanned resuppply spacecraft. ATVs are designed to supply the ISS with propellant, water, air, payload and experiments. In addition, ATVs can reboost the station into a higher orbit.

So far, 30 out of 44 manned spacecraft dockings have been a US Space Shuttle. The rest have been Russia's Soyuz. There have been 34 unmanned space dockings, primarily Russian. Now, I am sure that Russia's economy is in no better shape than ours, but spending billions every few months to send people to a lab in space does not make sense.

I am not suggesting that we abandon the space program altogether, just bring the brave souls who live up there home and postpone future flights until the economy gets better or keep them up there but let our partner countries shoulder some of the burden.

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