|The International Space Station
A great project to begin collaborating on a global scale
the first 2 modules of the Int. Space Station (Dec 1, 1998)
Warranty To Expire 12:03 PM ET 03/26/00
Improvement In Vital Signs (Science, 4 Aug. 2000)
Artistic preview of what will be
Connected the first 2 modules of the International
The International Space Station (ISS)
is one of those headlines which will be around for a good while.
And will certainly make history. The first seed has been planted by coupling
one Russian module (Zarya) and one American module (Unity) that orbit right
now the Earth at 28000 Km/h, 400Km above our heads. It is just the beginning
of a long process that should culminate in the year 2005. But the opening
of the first room of this 'station with no definitive name' was certainly
a celebrated event.
Not everything is to celebrate though.
The critical economic situation of Russia has been a continuous burden
and has caused repeated delays. Some critical voices even proposed the
cancellation of the project or the dropping of Russian contributions. Nevertheless
the Russian experience in space has proven to be most valuable and the
own strategic and corporate interests from the USA have finally prevailed
in going ahead with this expensive but profitable enterprise.
Once completed, the ISS will be the
base campground for a wealth of new scientific experiments and discoveries
which will boost our knowledge and achievements in materials science, biology,
medicine and engineering, to name a few.
On the other hand, this is not the first
orbiting space station. The Russians Salyut 1 and Mir are important precedents.
So, what is so special about it?. Well, this is the first one involving
from the beginning a cooperation between the USA, Russia, Europe, Canada
and Japan. It is a global project.
Space Station Warranty To Expire 12:03 PM ET 03/26/00
By MARCIA DUNN=
AP Aerospace Writer=
Fla. (AP) _ NASA's space station warranty runs
out this week, and the agency is no closer to finishing the project
than it was when the first two pieces rocketed into orbit in 1998.
almost 500 days aloft, the international space station has
no occupants, no experiments, no firm assembly plans. Instead, it's
a barren two-roomer with bad batteries, noisy equipment and poor
the Russians: They were supposed to launch a service
module that would assume control of the station and provide living
quarters just five months after the initial components soared, but
they have been stymied by insufficient funds and malfunctioning
As a result,
the all-important third component, the Zvezda
service module, will not fly before July and astronauts and
cosmonauts will not move in until October _ at the earliest.
meantime, the warranty for what's in orbit is expiring.
And that has space shuttle astronauts flying to the rescue next
guarantee for Russian-built electronic equipment
runs out Thursday, according to figures provided last year by
then-station manager Frank Culbertson, an astronaut who will
command a future station crew.
the space station to keep running normally until
astronauts arrive in mid- to late April with new batteries, fans,
air filters, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. The astronauts
were supposed to wait until the service module was in place, but
with the warranty expiring and batteries failing, NASA moved up the
you like it to fall out of the sky?'' asks NASA
Administrator Daniel Goldin. ``I mean, we're going to go up and
keep it in good repair and we'll be ready for the service module
when it comes.''
station chief Michael Hawes expects the upcoming repairs
by astronauts to extend the certified lifetime of the orbiting
Zarya control module to the end of this year.
Hawes nor program manager Tommy Holloway is overly
lifetime of parts is ``mostly paper analysis kind of
stuff,'' Holloway says. ``As you know with your automobile, it may
break a day after you drive it out of the showroom and it may run
for 100,000 miles.''
by Russians with U.S. funds, Zarya was launched from
Kazakstan on Nov. 20, 1998. That's when the 496-day warranty began.
NASA sent up a connecting chamber called Unity two weeks later.
then, the space station has circled Earth nearly 8,000
times. Shuttle crews have been inside twice to drop off supplies
and make repairs.
trouble has been the batteries. Six are on board to
provide power and have been faltering one by one.
a crane attached to the outside of the station by
spacewalking astronauts last spring is not locked down properly.
The next shuttle crew will go out to secure it. The crew also will
take numerous air samples; the last visitors suffered headaches and
nausea, supposedly because the air ventilation was disturbed by
Russian for Sunrise, was not designed to fly so long by
itself, says Hawes. It was modeled after Russian lab modules that
were self-sustaining units until they docked with space station
Mir's nerve center.
always known that Zarya was a less capable module from a
lifetime standpoint,'' Hawes says. ``But we have done quite a bit
of work ... to try to understand where the issues are component by
component, and that is what's really defined our mission for this
is that for years, the Russians lacked the money to
complete Zvezda, Russian for Star. Now that it's done, the module
fails to meet NASA safety standards for noise, self-sustaining
equipment and shielding against space junk.
Proton rockets began failing. That's the type of
rocket needed to launch the heavy Zvezda.
now, as I see it, the only thing standing in the way of
launching the service module is a demonstration flight from the
Proton,'' says NASA's boss, Goldin.
to see four or five successful Proton launches before
the Zvezda service module flies. Just in case, NASA is building its
own control module, which could be ready to go by December.
and others are quick to point out that NASA has had its
share of space station problems, most notably in computer software.
Boeing, the prime contractor, projects cost overruns of close to $1
billion, according to NASA's latest inspector general report.
embarrassing debacle occurred last month. With so many
stockpiled parts, workers accidentally threw out two oxygen and
nitrogen tanks at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,
Ala. The tanks were worth $750,000.
delays, meanwhile, have cost NASA as much as $3 billion.
Ironically, NASA and its foreign partners had invited Russia into
the international space station program in 1993 in hopes of saving
time and money.
all this, should NASA have waited to launch the first two
space station components when it was obvious the service module was
in deep trouble?
are loath to second-guess that decision. But
former astronaut Jerry Linenger, who spent nearly five months on
Mir in 1997, says it was a political maneuver.
of you do it, then everyone has to come up with more
money or you've got things floating up there doing nothing,''
anticipated delays, especially as Russia's
political and economic problems worsened. But no one guessed the
Russians would take this long to launch the service module. A
496-day warranty seemed plenty.
a long way off,'' Culbertson said with a shrug last
On the Net: NASA's human spaceflight:
August 4, 2000
An Improvement In Vital Signs (Science,
Vol. 289, p. 707, 4 Aug. 2000)
Life scientists hoping to conduct research in space finally have some
good news. Last week a hefty Russian module with living and working quarters
for astronauts docked with the pieces of the international space station
already in orbit, a critical step in creating a full-time orbiting laboratory.
Meanwhile, NASA bureaucrats put the finishing touches on a realignment
of the agency's struggling biology effort that should bolster fundamental
research and allow scientists to make better use of the facility, scheduled
to be completed in 2005. The two events raise the hopes of U.S. academic
space life scientists that their discipline is at last on the ascent at
NASA (Science, 12 May, p. 938).
On 25 July Russian controllers at a mission control center outside
Moscow guided the 20-ton Zvezda module into the U.S.-funded and Russian-built
Zarya module. The maneuver formed a single spacecraft the length of an
11-story building. Although researchers must wait for the U.S. laboratory
to arrive in late January, Vice President Al Gore praised the docking as
a sign of the station's pending payoff for scientists, and NASA officials
savored the opportunity to move beyond short, sporadic experiments on the
space shuttle to more substantive projects. "We finally see the carrot
at the end of that stick, says Julie Swain, deputy chief of NASA's life
and microgravity sciences office, referring to the long and painful process
of getting the station into orbit.
While engineers are putting the station through its paces, NASA managers
are overhauling Swain's office in a way that will raise the profile of
biological research. The new organization, due to be announced this week,
will divide the current life sciences division into biomedical activity
fundamental biological research. The former, which will be run by NASA's
Johnson Space Center in Houston, will focus on such
human health problems as excessive bone loss from long-duration
space travel. The latter, led by NASA'S Ames Research Center in Mountain
View, California, will include more fundamental research in such areas
as cell biology. The two pieces, plus work in microgravity and other fields,
will make up an office of fundamental space research.
The new arrangement reflects a shift in emphasis from a program centered
on keeping astronauts healthy to one that will foster the exploration of
fundamental biological processes. "This change is really necessary and
long overdue", says Esther Chang, a genetics researcher at Georgetown University
and a member of NASA's life and microgravity sciences advisory panel. "It
has been very difficult to keep these two areas together and give each
the attention it deserves." NASA now spends $57 million on biomedical research
and countermeasures, not including health research and other related areas,
and $39 million on fundamental biology.
Whether the new arrangement will translate into a bigger budget won't
be clear until next year "All of the professional societies involved have
endorsed significantly increased funding for biological programs," says
Norman Lewis, a biologist at Washington State University in Pullman and
a former president of the American Society for Gravitational Space Biology.
He would like to see a greater investment in Earth-based experiments to
complement space-based missions, a view endorsed by agency officials.
NASA officials are looking for a prominent researcher with significant
management experience to head the new office. Arnauld Nicogossian, the
longtime head of the life and microgravity office, was to remain head until
his replacement was named, but in mid-July he was relieved of that duty.(Nicogossian
is now the chief health and safety officer for NASA.) NASA Chief Scientist
Kathie Olsen, a biologist who was instrumental in the reorganization, has
been named acting chief while a search is begun for a permanent boss. But
sources say she will not apply for the job. Swain, trained as a physician,
is said to be a candidate.
As for what kind of research will be done once the station is complete,
Swain says that "we're not even sure what questions we will be answering
in terrestrial laboratories. But I think we're going to have a dynamite
research program to help find some fundamental answers"