[FPSPACE] US plans to deorbit the ISS by 2016: Mike Suffredini, NASA space station program manager

Anatoly Zak agzak at optonline.net
Mon Jul 13 13:04:56 EDT 2009

If I am not mistaken, back in 2004, the US announced its intention to
withdraw from the ISS in 2015, so I am not sure how this would be a news to
Washington Post or anybody else. In a contrary, most space officials are now
optimistic that the extension to 2020 is possible. The real question is
probably would NASA afford such extension at the expense of the
Constellation program or with some other funds?

Anatoly Zak

On 7/13/09 2:06 PM, "Peter Pesavento" <pjp961 at svol.net> wrote:

> From the Washington Post
> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/12/AR200907120197
> 7.html?hpid=topnews
> Space Station Is Near Completion, Maybe the End
> Plan to 'De-Orbit' in 2016 Is Criticized
> By Joel Achenbach
> Washington Post Staff Writer
> Monday, July 13, 2009
> A number of times in recent weeks a bright, unblinking light has appeared in
> the night sky of the nation's capital: a spaceship. Longer than a football
> field, weighing 654,000 pounds, the spaceship moved swiftly across the heavens
> and vanished. 
> Fortunately, it was one of ours.
> The international space station is by far the largest spacecraft ever built by
> earthlings. Circling the Earth every 90 minutes, it often passes over North
> America and is visible from the ground when night has fallen but the station,
> up high, is still bathed in sunlight.
> After more than a decade of construction, it is nearing completion and finally
> has a full crew of six astronauts. The last components should be installed by
> the end of next year.
> And then? 
> "In the first quarter of 2016, we'll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft," says
> NASA's space station program manager, Michael T. Suffredini.
> That's a polite way of saying that NASA will make the space station fall back
> into the atmosphere, where it will turn into a fireball and then crash into
> the Pacific Ocean. It'll be a controlled reentry, to ensure that it doesn't
> take out a major city. But it'll be destroyed as surely as a Lego palace
> obliterated by the sweeping arm of a suddenly bored kid.
> This, at least, is NASA's plan, pending a change in policy. There's no
> long-term funding on the books for international space station operations
> beyond 2015. 
> Suffredini raised some eyebrows when, at a public hearing last month, he
> declared flatly that the plan is to de-orbit the station in 2016. He addressed
> his comments to a panel chaired by former aerospace executive Norman Augustine
> that is charged by the Obama administration with reviewing the entire human
> spaceflight program. Everything is on the table -- missions, goals, rocket
> design. And right there in the mix is this big, fancy space laboratory
> circling the Earth from 220 miles up.
> The cost of the station is both a liability and, paradoxically, a virtue. A
> figure commonly associated with the ISS is that it will ultimately cost the
> United States and its international partners about $100 billion. That may add
> to the political pressure to keep the space laboratory intact and in orbit
> rather than seeing it plunging back to Earth so soon after completion.
> "If we've spent a hundred billion dollars, I don't think we want to shut it
> down in 2015," Sen. Bill Nelson
> <http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/n000032/>  (D-Fla.) told
> Augustine's committee.
> Suffredini agrees.
> "My opinion is it would be a travesty to de-orbit this thing," he said. "If we
> get rid of this darned thing in 2015, we're going to cede our leadership in
> human exploration."
> NASA has a strategy built on President George W. Bush's Vision for Space
> Exploration, of which a return to the moon is the next great leap. The space
> station's defenders say it can provide essential research on long-duration
> spaceflight. 
> Suffredini argues that any long-term exploration of the universe requires an
> initial step of learning how to survive in space. The best place to do that is
> close to the Earth, he said. The space station sticks to low Earth orbit.
> "It's also teaching us how to work together as a world, as a planet," he said.
> Although there is no official lobbying going on to extend the mission, NASA is
> conducting a thorough review of the station to see what it would take to
> certify it as operational through the late 2020s, Suffredini said. Even in the
> vacuum of space, things break down, get old, wear out.
> Critics have long derided the orbiting laboratory as a boondoggle. Originally
> called Space Station Freedom during the Reagan years, it became the
> international space station when the United States lured Russia into a
> partnership in 1993, agreeing to alter the orbit of the station to make it
> pass over the Russian-run space complex in Kazakhstan. That agreement helped
> keep Russian scientists and engineers employed at a time when the United
> States feared they would become rogue agents in a chaotic world.
> The rap on the space station has always been that it was built primarily to
> give the space shuttle somewhere to go. Now, with the shuttle being retired at
> the end of 2010, the station is on the spot. U.S. astronauts will be able to
> reach the station only by getting rides on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.
> The station has repeatedly been hit with budget cuts and design modifications.
> Much of its science funding was cut earlier this decade. A centrifuge had been
> planned as a crucial scientific component of the station, but it didn't
> survive the budget axe. Until the end of May, the station had a crew of three,
> barely enough for housekeeping.
> NASA officials say there will be important science performed on the station in
> the years ahead. The last flight of the space shuttle will install on the
> station a physics experiment called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which
> will search for dark matter and antimatter.
> But a prominent critic of human spaceflight, physicist Robert L. Park of the
> University of Maryland, said putting astronauts on the space station is akin
> to "flagpole-sitting." He argues that the station fundamentally lacks a
> mission. 
> Gentler criticism comes from David Leckrone, senior project scientist for the
> Hubble Space Telescope, who thinks the station is underutilized. He fears that
> NASA measures the station's value solely in terms of how it might advance the
> long-term "Exploration" agenda of returning to the moon, with basic science
> research as an afterthought.
> "Whether it was a great investment or not to begin with, having made that
> investment, I think it's imperative for the United States to extract value --
> real, honest-to-God scientific value -- out of that investment," Leckrone
> said. 
> Park has a different suggestion: "Give it to China. Let them support the damn
> thing." 
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