International Space Station: Let It Crash and Burn

On Dec. 6, 1998, the crew of space shuttle mission STS-88 began construction of the International Space Station, attaching the U.S.-built Unity node and the Russian-built Zarya module together in orbit. (Image Credit: NASA)

The clock will run out on the International Space Station in 2024. That’s the uninformed deadline that Congress imposed back in 2014. They must then decide whether or not to keep funding the ISS. But when has Congress ever made a good decision? Some politicians have questioned whether the money that’s already been invested in the ISS has been worth it. This committee doesn't have the best track record when it comes to supporting good science.

It’s seven years from now, but it’s also seven years of taxpayer money being sucked into a black hole. The Russian Black Hole that is. The ISS takes up half of NASA’s human exploration budget. This money could be better spent. NASA could be sending humans to Mars or to an asteroid. The Space Agency cannot continue to rocket more than three billion dollars annually into the ISS.

(Analysis of the NASA Budget does not provide a clear sense of what is spent on the ISS as many of the expenses are hidden in multiple line items.)

Excerpt From Chapter 9 of 20/20: A Clear Vision for America:

The ISS requires extensive maintenance by expensive Extra Vehicular Activities. The magazine ‘The American Enterprise’ reports, for instance, that ISS astronauts ‘now spend 85 percent of their time on construction and maintenance alone. The Astronomical Society of the Pacific states the orbit is rather highly inclined, which makes Russian launches cheaper, but US launches more expensive. This was an intended design point, to encourage Russian involvement with the ISS—and Russian involvement saved the project from abandonment in the wake of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, but the choice has increased the costs of completing the ISS.

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The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology decides how much money NASA will get. And because politicians aren’t experts in space travel, they will hold hearings to discuss what they will do with the ISS in the next seven years. Options are to let private industry take it over? Let it crash and burn into the South Pacific? Let the program keep running?

Let it Crash and Burn

Another Excerpt From Chapter 9 of 20/20: A Clear Vision for America:

The ISS is the most expensive single item ever constructed with a cost of more than $150 billion. It includes NASA’s budget of over $60 billion for the station plus the cost of 36 shuttle flights to build the station, estimated at $1.4 billion each, or $50.4 billion total.

The United States needs its own Space Station. America does not need a partner, and it surely doesn’t need to be in space with the incompetent, corrupt Russians who pay a small portion of the operating costs. Other partners pay next to nothing.

What if relations with Russia deteriorate further? How will this work? Who will pay for what? Who will trust who, with American lives in space?

This was a flawed arrangement in the first place; and the ISS was put in the wrong apogee. The apogee was to suit the Russians which made it more expensive and unwieldy for the United States. This was always a bad deal.

The International Space Station has been the target of much criticism over the years.

It’s difficult to fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy, but it’s thorny to abandon a massive project just after we’ve finished building it. The ISS has had significant upgrades since assembly began in 1998, and it was only in the last few years that the final modules went up. This is not to say that the ISS should be funded forever. The ISS can be taken over by industry, if private entities are interested in developing products for use in outer space. 

Russian Soyuz spacecraft, docked to the International Space Station. Although Earth is close by for station missions, NASA’s standard of medical care for station has assumed a return to Earth could take days. (Image Credit: NASA)

America Craves Leadership to Make Galactic Decisions

President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union Address on January 25, 1984 directed NASA to build an international space station within the next 10 years. The first segment of the ISS launches was on November 20th, 1998 on a Russian proton rocket named Zarya (sunrise). This has been a colossal boondoggle ever since.

More from Chapter 9:

This is important. What is the future of America in space?” Ron asked himself. “The USA should vigorously consider its own space station. We should not depend on Russia for this, or anything. We can have partners. The USA should revive its astronaut program. Space station crews should continue to learn how to function and live in space and learn how to build technology and hardware that will survive and function in the future. The space station should be the launching pad to the moon and other planets. This is essential if we are to explore deep space.


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The Muckster will continue to watch the stars and keep an eye on the sky to keep my readers informed. I am here to lead you safely into space exploration with 20/20: A Clear Vision for Our future. You are my inspiration. Be a part of the narrative.

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Finally, an author who brings you solutions, instead of problems.

Americans have lost faith in their overreaching federal government. “We the People” don’t need to be overregulated or have their taxes misspent. Americans are victims of a crumbling economy, high prices and stagnant wages. They view government as bloated and politicians as corrupt.

They do not trust the leadership at any level. They see politicians of both parties as self-centered narcissists whose only objective is re-election. The author is like you, with one principal difference and 20 reasons for optimism. His “Vision” of America is “clear.” It is a vision of the Constitution and America the way it could be, the way it should be. The author’s eyesight is twenty-twenty.

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