[FPSPACE] Last Few Hours in History of Unmanned Space?

Dwayne Allen Day wayneday@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu
Mon, 30 Oct 2000 17:36:09 -0500 (EST)

On Mon, 30 Oct 2000, Phillip Clark wrote:

> Will ISS become any more a permantly-occupied station that the Mir
> Complex has been ?   That was occupied for just a few days short of ten
> years.   And who is to say that when ISS is abandoned there will be
> another human outpost in orbit either ready to or already taking over the
> role ?

Absolutely.  And why should we believe that ISS will be occupied
permanently for this entire period?  Remember, the US economy was in
constant growth from 1993 until 2000, yet NASA's budget was CUT by one
third.  Assume an economic downturn--isn't it entirely possible that ISS
operations might be suspended at some point to save money?

> My own somewhat-biased view is that space station work is something to
> keep humans doing something in space until we decide to get down to the
> Real Thing and start going places again: like the Moon, Mars and
> beyond.   Because my worry is that if we stop human spaceflight for
> whatever reason (ISS has just decayed !) it could be decades before we
> find a reason to start once more.

My own obviously-biased view is that human space exploration is largely an
aberration, a "Cold War echo" that still resonates, but does not have
to.  It is entirely conceivable that the world could stop sending humans
into space for several decades before deciding to do so once again.  We
could give up on ISS as not worth the cost and sit on the dirt for a few
decades before deciding to go again.  Right now, the only thing that keeps
us sending humans up there is the inertia from a dead superpower struggle,
not science, not the desire to explore, not anything terribly noble in