Congress, NASA, Other, White House

ISS extension plan wins domestic support, but international uncertainty

After word broke that the White House had backed plans to extend the life of the International Space Station to at least 2024, the administration scrambled to make the news official, holding a midday media telecon Wednesday to discuss the extension. Late in the day, NASA administrator Charles Bolden and presidential science advisor John Holdren issued a joint statement about the extension.

“The extension of ISS operation will allow NASA and the international space community to accomplish a number of important goals,” Bolden and Holdren wrote. Those goals include enhanced research utilization of the station, technology demonstration and long-duration human spaceflight research to support human exploration beyond Earth orbit, and supporting commercial space activities, including the transport of cargo and crew to the station. “The Obama Administration’s decision to extend its life until at least 2024 will allow us to maximize its potential, deliver critical benefits to our Nation and the world, and maintain American leadership in space,” Bolden and Holdren concluded.

That decision has won support from some key members of Congress. “I applaud the decision to extend the operations of the International Space Station,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a statement. “Keeping ISS flying—and continuing the important research that goes on there—means taxpayers get more bang for the buck from this unique laboratory.”

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) endorsed the extension, citing the benefits of continued ISS operations for Kennedy Space Center in his state. “This means more jobs at the Kennedy Space Center as we rebuild our entire space program,” he said in a brief video message provided by his office. “This is a robust future for KSC and our space program.”

The Democratic leadership of the House Science Committee backed the planned extension, while asking for more information. “I am pleased that the Administration is initiating an important dialogue with its international partners on the extension of ISS operations to at least 2024,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking member of the full committee, in an emailed statement. “I look forward to further details on the Administration’s proposal and on the planned priorities and objectives for ISS activities during the proposed extension.” Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member of the committee’s space subcommittee, offered similar qualified support in the same statement.

The proposed extension also got the support of a Republican member of Congress. “It’s inevitable and I’m delighted that NASA understands the value of ensuring that America continues to hold the high ground,” Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) told the Washington Post. Terminating the station “would be like General Meade handing over Little Round Top voluntarily… to the Chinese.”

While continuing ISS operations to at least 2024 has the support of many on Capitol Hill, it’s not yet clear what kind of support it has among NASA’s international partners on the program. “We’ve talked to the partners about this,” NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations Bill Gerstenmaier said during Wednesday’s media telecon. He added they had been involved in the technical studies regarding the feasibility of operating the ISS as late as 2028, and have been aware of NASA’s interest in extending the station for several months. However, he acknowledged that an extension was a “big deal” for them. “They’ll continue to evaluate that over the next several years. I think in general they see this as a positive step that we’re moving forward” on this, he said.

One European official said Wednesday that while he endorsed an extension, getting others in Europe to support continued use of ISS may be a challenge. Germany supports use of the ISS “until 2020 and beyond,” said Johann-Dietrich Wörner, head of the German space agency DLR, at a media breakfast Wednesday in advance of an international space exploration conference and heads of agencies summit meeting Thursday and Friday in Washington. Germany is the biggest supporter of the ISS within ESA, and has lobbied other ESA member nations to fund Europe’s share of station operations.

“However, there are some problems,” he added. “Some of the member nations are reducing their financial support due to the economic crisis, and now we are in a very complicated discussion process at ESA concerning the future of the ISS.” He said ESA members need to “intensify” their use of the station rather than look to whatever comes after the station.

An extension of the ISS could open the door to adding new partners to the program, particular if some partners decide not to extend their commitment to the station beyond 2020. Wörner recalled suggesting India and China join the partnership when he was asked about it by the Augustine Committee in 2009. China, of course, creates some geopolitical complications, which he acknowledged. “I don’t think we will discuss this matter tomorrow,” he said, referring to the closed-door heads of agencies summit meeting Thursday at the State Department.

52 comments to ISS extension plan wins domestic support, but international uncertainty

  • DCSCA

    “Terminating the station “would be like General Meade handing over Little Round Top voluntarily… to the Chinese.”

    Pfft. And mintaining it is Pickett’s Charge for America’s space program; dooming the U.S. to another decade of going in circles, no where, fast.

    • Robert G Oler

      oh gee just saw this…another historical ignorant. Pickett was an observer in the charge

      It really should be known as Lewis Addison Armistead or “Lo” for Lothario Armistead’s charge…

      Lo’s uncle was commander of the fort where the British bombarded and another “guy” wrote the words to the Star-Spangled Banner from a ship of the line of the British. Lo is buried at Fort McHenry

      If anything SLS is the same notion that Robert E Lee had when he sent Lo and others to their deaths. An impossible mission managed by idiots and inepts who were not in the line of fire.

      Robert G. Oler

    • E.P. Grondine

      Hi DCSCA –

      Repeating Rick Tumlinson’s idiocy again and again will never make it intelligent.

      As a rulel, most manned Mars fantasists have absolutely zero understanding of the engineering technologies of real space flight.

      Musk et. al. excepted. But then they never have wasted their time repeating propaganda slogans again and again and again.

  • amightywind

    Those goals include enhanced research utilization of the station, technology demonstration and long-duration human spaceflight research to support human exploration beyond Earth orbit, and supporting commercial space activities, including the transport of cargo and crew to the station.

    Malthusian John Holden emerges to spread his wisdom. Five years of this pablum and no end in sight. I miss our space program. At least the fallacy of our make work free space market is exposed. The goal of the program is to support commercial space, not the other way around. The ISS program exists to line the pockets of Obama supporters. Glad the the Euros are reluctant to sign up. Hopefully a new Republican President can tear up the agreement in 2016.

    China, of course, creates some geopolitical complications

    Yes, I’d imagine pitched naval battles between the US and China will cause friction on the ISS.

  • Dark Blue Nine

    “Terminating the station ‘would be like General Meade handing over Little Round Top voluntarily… to the Chinese.’”

    So we’re fighting round two of the U.S. Civil War on the ISS? And China is the Confederacy?

    How does someone so ignorant of U.S. history — or so idiotic with their metaphors — get elected to Congress?

    Is there a correlation between imbecility and the ability to run a successful political campaign?

    Holy crap, Culberson… WTF?

    • Robert G Oler

      He is a Republican…Pat Robertson was talking about SUV’s on Jupiter…facts dont matter and metaphors are whatever Luntz says polls well. Remember Dean Chambers RGO

    • Matt McClanahan

      Here’s the punchline: Culberson has a history degree.

      But, on the other hand, he’s a Tea Party member, so.

    • MrEarl

      Oh DBN, I do enjoy your over the top righteous indignation.

      • Dark Blue Nine

        “Oh DBN, I do enjoy your over the top righteous indignation.”

        It’s not indignation — I’ll reserve that for Culberson’s next multi-hundred million dollar boondoggle earmark, which I’m sure will be arriving with the FY14 omnibus.

        I’m just incredulous that someone that ignorant of the nation’s history or that idiotic with his metaphors can get elected to Congress.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    The Russians will probably support the ISS extension, as will ESA and the Japanese but only in the understanding that the US still covers its share of the costs in line with the current proportions.

  • mike shupp

    DB9: Culbertson’s from Texas. I think he caught himself halfway through that line with the realization that many of his constituents would have been pleased as punch if General Meade had let the right set of invading foreigners seize Little Red Top.

    • Mark R. Whittington

      Contrary to popular opinion in some quarters, there are few if any people in Texas or anywhere else who pines after the Lost Cause. Culbertson was simply mixing his metaphors.

        • MrEarl

          Believe it or not comrade, 99.99% of Texans do not feel this way.

          • Vladislaw

            Actually, if you are going to use comrade, you should use it correctly. You seem to think that the Russian word comrade is the same as the French word comrade. Russian version of this term (товарищ, tovarishch) from Old Turkic tavar ishchi, meant something like “business companion” or “travel (or other adventure) mate”. So when you look at my nick and say comrade, you mearly are illustrating you really do not know what the word means.

            • MrEarl

              No Vlad, it was a demonstration of jumping to conclusions.
              Just like you jumped to conclusions about southerners, Texans in particular, still pining for the old south, I purposely used “comrade” a term the US used to identify Russian communists, to add effect because of your nick.

              • Vladislaw

                Having lived in the south, on two different occasions, I didn’t have to jump to any conclusions, I experienced it firsthand.

    • Robert G Oler

      To be fair, it is not all that uncommon for the right wing/tea party nuts to push some historical event and get it just completely wrong. This is Palin having P. Revere riding to warn the redcoats…History is maleable and can be shaped to any “convenient truth” required.

      What is somewhat sad is that most of the GOP right wing, and some Dems but most of the GOP right wing have just given up on reality and are trying to shape a future that is just based on fiction. The CHinese taking over the Moon, going to do this or that in space…all are just devoid of any figment of reality but keep the faithful all excited. RGO

  • Terminating the $3 billion a year ISS program would not mean the end of American space stations. It would actually be the beginning of a new generation of both government and private commercial stations from companies like Bigelow Aerospace. Lagrange point space stations like Skylab 2 derived from the SLS upper stage are also being considered.

    Marcel

    • amightywind

      Agreed. A smaller Bigelow-like station could be launched at far less cost and be designed for tourism in addition to whatever else they do up there. Heck, commercial crew might then actually have a paying job. ISS is nuts. What a horrendous opportunity cost.

    • Coastal Ron

      Marcel F. Williams said:

      It would actually be the beginning of a new generation of both government and private commercial stations from companies like Bigelow Aerospace.

      The ISS is completely separate from what Bigelow is doing. The only commonality is the logistics portion, since Bigelow will use the same companies NASA relies upon. But other wise Bigelow is focused on providing access to space for countries that can’t afford to be part of the ISS, and to companies and individuals that want the freedom to do what they wouldn’t be able to do on the ISS.

      Lagrange point space stations like Skylab 2 derived from the SLS upper stage are also being considered.

      Not seriously of course. Nothing that needs the SLS is being seriously considered. Heck, House Republican’s are even trying to make it illegal to find uses for the SLS.

      • We already know what the SLS is supposed to be used for. But the Obama administration doesn’t want to go there. But everyone else does. Check out the article about Lori Garver and her questions to American astronauts about where NASA should go next:

        Lori Garver Questioned Astronauts about NASA’s Next Destination

        http://newpapyrusmagazine.blogspot.com/2014/01/lori-garver-questioned-astronauts-about.html

        • Coastal Ron

          Marcel F. Williams said:

          We already know what the SLS is supposed to be used for.

          Yes, as was stated at the time the purpose of the SLS is to provide jobs.

          But the Obama administration doesn’t want to go there.

          The President didn’t ask for the SLS, Congress proposed it as part of an overall deal when the Constellation program was cancelled. It’s not up to the President to find uses for the SLS – it’s up to Congress.

          How many times does this simple fact have to be pointed out to you?

          But everyone else does.

          Here is the little secret to remember – it doesn’t matter what people say, it only matters what gets funded.

          As to where we should go, American astronauts don’t care if they ride on an HLV or an existing commercial launcher, or that the mission payload for them gets to where it’s going using an HLV or existing commercial launcher. In fact if asked, they would probably prefer to ride on the launcher that is flown frequently and has a long successful launch history – and that’s not the SLS.

          For instance, before SpaceX flies their first company crew on the DragonRider, the Falcon 9 v1.1 will have flown over a dozen times and the Atlas V will have had dozens of successful flights. As of today NASA is planning to fly the first MPCV/SLS crew with the first full-up MPCV and only the second real SLS flight – does that sound completely safe? I know what I’d rather ride on.

          For every mission that has been proposed for the SLS, the same mission can be accomplished for less, and in less time, using commercial launchers.

          And AGAIN, the government entity that pushed for the SLS (i.e. Congress) has also refused to fund any uses for it. That’s not on the President, that’s on the few people in Congress that pushed for NASA to build the SLS.

          • Congress– specifically wrote– into the legislation for the SLS that the President must inform them how the SLS will be used in the near future within cis-lunar space. It was an attempt by Congress to corner the President into returning to the Moon.

            First the President simply ignored the Congressional mandate. Then he tried to wiggle around it by proposing that a– meteoroid– be captured and dragged into cis-lunar space. Sometimes this administration amuses me:-)

            Congress has attempted to fully fund the SLS and has repeated called administration officials before Congress whenever they’ve suspected them of delaying or underfunding the SLS. Bolden claimed that the SLS was being fully funded– each time and that any reductions were simply due to the fact that the SLS was a head of schedule:-) He’s a real funny guy, IMO!

            Then Congress has asked Bolden about returning to the Moon. First he tried to claim it was too expensive with a development cost of $8 to $10 billion. That’s nothing over a 7 year development period. The ISS cost you over $12 billion in just four years. Then Bolden claimed that it wasn’t possible because it would require a two launch scenario and NASA would only have the ability of launching the SLS only once every 6 months. The two launch lunar scenario for the SLS is no surprise.That was the DIRECT model for a Lunar return. The fact that the Obama administration is not preparing two launch pads for the SLS is its surprise for Congress. But why should they since Obama took the Moon off the table and had tried almost everything possible to kill the SLS program.

            But you are right, Congress, had no choice but to force the SLS on the administration since Obama’s mission to nowhere policy for NASA during an economic crisis would have brought severe cuts to NASA. And many in Congress and many Americans like NASA!

            Marcel

            • Coastal Ron

              Marcel F. Williams said:

              It was an attempt by Congress to corner the President into returning to the Moon.

              Not “Congress”, but a few in Congress. And in case you are unaware of how your government works, Congress can tell a President that they should do something, but the President doesn’t have to listen. The opposite is true too. That just how our government works. Maybe you should have paid more attention in your civics class… ;-)

              First the President simply ignored the Congressional mandate.

              Congress ignored common sense.

              Congress has attempted to fully fund the SLS and has repeated called administration officials before Congress whenever they’ve suspected them of delaying or underfunding the SLS.

              You are confused about the issues here. I readily admit that the SLS is funded, what I’ve been saying is that Congress has so far refused to fund A USE for the SLS. Big difference.

              There is nothing that prevents the same congressional SLS supporters from holding hearings and proposing legislation that will fund NASA to build missions that use the SLS.

              Why hasn’t Congress done that? Because the SLS supporters know that any sustained use of the SLS will require NASA’s budget to at least double, regardless if the ISS is splashed or not.

              And that is the real issue here – the SLS is too expensive to use, and Congress knows that. It’s not too expensive to build, since Congress builds things all the time that get cancelled and never used. That is how pork works.

            • “Congress has attempted to fully fund the SLS…”

              And how much money constitutes ‘full funding’ for SLS? Whatever the answer maybe, I suspect that it’ll start with;

              “First, we select one Commercial Crew provider right now (preferably someone we’re familiar with, like Boeing) so we can tell these ‘commercial’ people that you got what you want, now shut up. Then take that money for the SLS (even if it’s just another month or so of its current annual budget). Then we scrap ISS and eat that budget (What? Screw what our partners think of our bailing out on them, it’s not like it’s never happened before), and sometime in the future, get a real space program going, that, uh, repeats Apollo 8 (What? Landers? There’s no more money for that!), and by God, we’ll show the Chinese how powerful we are! This will fly just as often as they do…!”

            • One thing you all seem to have forgotten is that even if a launcher the size of SLS were needed, that does not mean it should be SLS. Remember the quotes to NASA from ULA and SpaceX. The latter’s total “fixed into the contract” development cost would be equivalent to about 1.3 years of SLS’s current budget.

        • Vladislaw

          What a red herring. CONGRESS could VOTE for funding these moon programs and force President Obama to veto them.

          Republicans in the House, which likes to do the EXACT OPPOSITE of whatever President Obama proposes.. sure has been lax in funding these billion dollar boondoggles for the moon. If it is President Obama holding back the Nation… why isn’t your pro moon congress voting BILLIONS and BILLIONS for a NASA moon return?

        • Jim Nobles

          .
          “We already know what the SLS is supposed to be used for. But the Obama administration doesn’t want to go there. But everyone else does.”

          No, everyone else does not. From what I can see only a noisy minority wants it.

  • Dave Huntsman

    The Russians will likely support ISS extension….but they’ll try to extract a price. After the last ATV flight the ISS will be totally dependent on the Russians for propellant and reboots services. After 2020, does anyone really expect them to offer that for free?

  • Coastal Ron

    I saw an article recently that said ESA had figured out how to reduce their ISS support costs by 30%. No details given, and it may have been political posturing, but given the budget pressures in Europe it may have been something real. ESA is even looking real hard at lowering the cost of their upcoming Ariane 6 by slashing the number of companies that help build the rocket from 150 to 50 companies – that’s a big deal for them.

    Though there may be some discussions on how to keep costs down, I think enough of the current ISS partners will continue. I’m not sure other countries would be added, but that would be an interesting situation to have come up.

    Politically it’s pretty predictable that it’s easier to support a program that’s already going and has known political dependencies than to start up something completely new. That’s why I wasn’t too worried about the ISS getting extended, but it’s why SLS supporters have to be worried about their BFR. Sure the rocket has known political dependencies, but what the SLS is supposed to lift doesn’t.

    What is the SLS supposed to support? An asteroid retrieval mission? An EML research station? A new return to the Moon program? A new way to dispose of garbage? Tourism? Science? Exploration?

    With the ISS it’s a known quantity, and it has a tangible and future value – to figure out the technologies and techniques needed to support human life in space, and to use space to do R&D that can’t be done on Earth. Now the value of all of that can be debated as all programs should periodically, but at least there is something to be debated – the SLS has nothing. Hard to have a debate when there is nothing to talk about.

    And of course this clarifies the need for Commercial Crew. We’ll see if CC gets a more visible push by NASA and the Administration, as now the future need is well established as are the tradeoffs (i.e. sending more and more money to Russia).

  • Jim Nobles

    I, like most everyone else, expected ISS to be extended but I’m glad to see it become more official. Splashing the ISS in 2020 would have ended America’s and human kind’s continuing presence off planet. As far as I could tell only a few kooks scattered around the internet wanted that. I’m talking about those souls that claim, and even believe, they support space but in reality they work to end our efforts to expand off planet.

  • Over the long term, unless there are catestrophic failers, I expect the ISS or something directly derived from it or its components, to be in orbit the day I die. For better or worse, the ISS is likely to prove impossible to kill for the same reason the Aries-V came back from the dead — too many jobs are at stake and too many powerful politicians want it to continue. Large scale infrastructure has tremendous staying power. This is for the better, I think. For the time being, the ISS is the destination commercial space transportation companies need to provide a market for their wares.

    • Coastal Ron

      Donald F. Robertson said:

      For better or worse, the ISS is likely to prove impossible to kill for the same reason the Aries-V came back from the dead — too many jobs are at stake and too many powerful politicians want it to continue.

      I think the Shuttle may be a better analogy. The Shuttle “program” lasted for 30 years even after two ships and 14 people were killed. But the reason why it lasted that long was because the government essentially had a monopoly on transportation to LEO – you can’t compete against an organization that has no need to make a profit.

      But the Shuttle did have accomplishments, which is something the ISS can point to also. We are far further along understanding what it will take to not only keep humans alive in space for long periods of time, and we also better understand how complex systems work (or don’t work) over long periods of use. Both are critical if we eventually want to go beyond LEO.

      Though the Ares V did come back from the dead in the form of the SLS, so far it is a dead end program. Nothing has been funded or approved for the SLS to do, so it will end up being mothballed like the A-3 tower at Stennis that was only needed for the J-2X engine. At least the SLS program has an end date, though it will gobble up vast amounts of funding while active that could be used to do real space exploration using existing launchers. Politics…

      • Mader Levap

        “The Shuttle “program” lasted for 30 years even after two ships and 14 people were killed.”
        Not really. After second catastrophe, Shuttle was terminated as soon as it was politically possible (after finishing ISS).

        • Coastal Ron

          Mader Levap said:

          Not really. After second catastrophe, Shuttle was terminated as soon as it was politically possible (after finishing ISS).

          Regardless of why it was allowed to continue to be operational, the Shuttle flew for 30 years even after losing two ships and killing 14 people.

          There were alternatives that could have replaced the Shuttle after the Columbia accident. We’ve always had the ability to build a space station without the Shuttle – the Russians have had no problem building their stations without a Shuttle.

          It was, as you point out, a political decision to continue.

  • Ben

    I think its wise to get as much life as possible out of ISS. You may or may not agree with ISS, I think it was badly implemented myself but as a taxpayer I want to get my money’s worth out of that platform. Especially when we are unclear on the vision for NASA from this point forward.

    • DCSCA

      I think its wise to get as much life as possible out of ISS.

      As Cold War projects gho, we have. Declare victory, count the winnings and splash it. It’s a relic of 20th century space planning from an era long over.

      • But now its going to be use as a $3 billion a year corporate welfare for the emerging Commercial Crew program. I agree, it would be much cheaper to splash the ISS.

        But even if you gave Commercial Crew companies just $1 billion a year to fly American tourist to private space stations, they would launch more frequently than going to the ISS at a cost that’s three times less than the ISS pork program.

        Marcel

        • Coastal Ron

          Marcel F. Williams said:

          But even if you gave Commercial Crew companies just $1 billion a year to fly American tourist to private space stations…

          Doing logistics in a harsh environment is nothing to sneer at Marcel. I don’t know why it’s so hard for you to understand that you can’t operate a science outpost at the furthest point that humanity has without, you know, providing food and supplies. The same companies providing logistics today would likely also be involved with logistics for a human outpost at EML or on the Moon. I bet you didn’t realize that, did you?

          And if you think tourism is going to be such a big thing, then why don’t you invest your own money into doing it? The Commercial Cargo & Crew service providers are focused on doing real work, not tourism.

          …than going to the ISS at a cost that’s three times less than the ISS pork program.

          You obviously don’t understand the meaning of the work “pork” (aka pork barrel):

          Pork barrel is the appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district.

          That defines the SLS, which was promoted specifically by the political representatives from Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Florida, the primary states that benefit from the SLS.

          The ISS was actually debated in Congress, which the SLS never was, so the ISS in no way is “pork”. Even the Commercial Cargo and Commercial Crew programs were competitively bid, with opportunities for the losing bidders to file protests – and none did.

          Face it Marcel, you have it backwards. The SLS is the pork program. Oink!

  • E.P. Grondine

    At this point, anyone who wants to talk with me about China’s manned program needs to bring their wallets.

    Or read my posts from about, oh say, the year 2000 on, which can be done for free.

    That is if they have not been suppressed or re-written by the usual suspects.
    For example there was an old thread from about 2008 on nasaspaceflight headed
    “China’s Manned Moon Prgram” in the Chinese Launchers section.

    Good luck finding it.

  • Coastal Ron

    Interesting article in SpaceNews about NASA’s efforts at lobbying the ISS partners. In general the partners like the clarity, but it’s too early to tell whether that makes a difference.

    However, this statement in the article was interesting:

    Meanwhile, NASA’s top human spaceflight official made it clear that the agency would keep the $3 billion-a-year orbital outpost flying even if every participating country but Russia deserted the project. Key components of the space station, including its core module, were built and are controlled by the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

    “We’re prepared to do what we have to do if the partners choose to take a different path,” William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said during a Jan. 8 conference call with reporters.

    While NASA is prepared to continue with help only from Russia, Gerstenmaier said NASA has “talked to our partners about this [and] they want to go forward with this; it’s just working through the government approval … to get where they need to be.”

    NASA has its own financial difficulties, but extending space station operations to 2024 does not have any immediate U.S. budgetary implications, in part because the orbital outpost already has sufficient hardware supplies onboard to last through 2028, government officials say.

    Despite what some ISS detractors may think, NASA itself really wants the ISS to continue.

    • amightywind

      Despite what some ISS detractors may think, NASA itself really wants the ISS to continue.

      Absolutely. NASA is filled with hangers on marking time until retirement. All the more reason to reform the rotten agency.

      • Coastal Ron

        amightywind said:

        NASA is filled with hangers on marking time until retirement.

        They are more likely those that are hanging on to the Apollo repeat rocket (i.e. SLS) and capsule (i.e. MPCV), and not the research platform people that is solving the problems holding us back from long term human exploration beyond LEO (i.e. the ISS).

        And they certainly are not the small crew of people that oversaw the wildly successful and cost-effective Commercial Cargo program, nor the ones currently overseeing the very cost-effective Commercial Crew program.

        No, it’s the unneeded SLS rocket and MPCV capsule people that you really mean. Since Congress has refused to fund any uses for either, then why would you need the NASA personnel for them, right?

      • Vladislaw

        ESPECIALLY the hangers on that want to build big massive unaffordable porkridden rockets to nowhere.

  • In tangential ISS news, the National Geographic Channel will air in March a live global two-hour event from the station:

    http://www.ngcipressroom.com/press-release/707

    Looks like the secret is out of the bag. NASA still has a human spaceflight program.

  • Malmesbury

    Geo politics. Some people love that phrase.

    The reason for ISS extension geopolitically is what would happen if it is splashed. The Russians would separate their section to form a small station. The Chinese are looking to build their own permanent station.

    Both are talking to ESA et al about cooperation. In Europe the politics would be favourable to such deals.

    So you could very easily see a situation where ESA is collaborating with Russia or China (or both) with the US not involved. No US astronauts in space until Congress can finish detailed design of a mission to deliver tax dollars to the right people.

    SNC selling Dream Chaser to the Germans and SpaceX and Boeing selling rides to a Bigelow station would be extra humiliation.

    We are talking *years* of a *NASA* gap – to the politicians that is what counts – astronauts wearing the meatball logo. They don’t want to be the ones who really shut down NASA HSF, and drove the Europeans into the arms of the Russians and Chinese.

    • Hiram

      “The reason for ISS extension geopolitically is what would happen if it is splashed.”

      This is a fair point. To the U.S., our participation in ISS is our “stake in the ground” in human spaceflight. We give that up, and we’ll have *nothing* for a long time. In fact, it can be assumed that to preserve their own piece of that stake, the Russians, Europeans, Japanese, and Canadians will be on China’s doorstep immediately to do what ISS used to do — be a venue for international technological collaboration and pride. We’ll be, as we were with Sputnik, watching other countries fly overhead without us. Right now, with ISS, the U.S. has leadership in that effort.

      I think what this means is that to give up on our LEO outpost before we have an outpost anywhere else is geopolitically inadvisable. The puzzle is how to finance both.

  • Malmesbury

    “To the U.S., our participation in ISS is our “stake in the ground” in human spaceflight. We give that up, and we’ll have *nothing* for a long time. In fact, it can be assumed that to preserve their own piece of that stake, the Russians, Europeans, Japanese, and Canadians will be on China’s doorstep immediately”

    Exactly – though I think there is a significant possibility of the Russians doing their own station in that situation.

    In either case the political cost in the US would be high – can you imagine the backlash if ESA signs up to the Chinese station?

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