The International Space Station has cost more than $100 billion in 20 years, and some people are beginning to think it’s “useless.”

The International Space Station has cost more than $100 billion in construction and maintenance since it began with astronauts in 2000, but has it benefited society? Scientists are divided: some see it as a beacon of unity, while others see it as nothing more than a backdrop for action movies.

Source The Guardian

Author Robin McKie

Translation of Akin

Review qi translation

Space scientists are preparing to celebrate an extraordinary space achievement. In a few days, it will be the 20th year of human survival in outer space.

For 20 years, teams of astronauts have been visiting the International Space Station without interruption, building their homes at an altitude of 400 kilometers above our planet. On November 2, 2000, the first astronauts to land on the space station were American astronaut Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko. Since then, the space station has sheltered astronauts who rotate regularly, and astronauts have ensured that it is always maintained.

The station weighs 420 tons and orbits the Earth for 16 weeks a day at a speed of 17,000 meters (equivalent to 27,359 kilometers per hour), with a total of 240 male and female astronauts stationed there. The 109-meter-long space station consists of six sleeping areas, two toilets, a gym, and the most popular place is a European-built set of bay windows called Cupola, which offer a 360-degree view of how storms gather on Earth and how the sun rises.

Tim Peake is the only British astronaut on the International Space Station on official records and a big fan of the Dome. When he first saw our planet, he said, he realized how fragile it was. “You can see the atmosphere, it’s only 16 kilometers thick. It is not endless. In an interview with the BBC, he recalled, “All the gases that the earth maintained for us to survive were such a thin layer.” All of a sudden you realize that what we emit into the atmosphere is really important. “

The more mundane side of life on the space station includes astronauts floating in the air playing guitars and nights, a culinary history of Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, drinking her first Cup of Italian espresso in a zero-gravity marquee in outer space, and dealing with a series of toilet breaks – “this part of the space station is the best we’ve ever had since we returned to Earth,” says Pik. And these internal details are so important, scientists insist. “Maintaining the operation of the International Space Station tells us that, despite the harsh conditions in outer space, humans can still settle there, far from their home planet.” Charles Cockell, professor of astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This lesson is very important to us. “

International Space Station

In the 1980s, NASA first developed plans to build a permanent orbital space station. However, the cost estimates say the cost of the plan could be staggeringly high. It was not until the collapse of the Soviet Union that the United States had a chance to cooperate with Russia. Russia’s space engineers, who already have considerable experience with long-term space missions, have a small orbiting space station, the Salyut, and a much longer-than-former space station, Mir.

“It’s also a highly pragmatic move by the U.S.,” he said. Professor Anu Ojha, director of the BRITISH National Space Centre, commented: “When the Soviet Union collapsed, the US wanted to prevent the loss of space experts from the former Soviet Union, so it found ways to get them involved in joint space programmes to ensure that they stayed in their home countries while giving them a degree of support.” And the International Space Station is the perfect plan to do that. “

Eventually, the United States and Russia agreed on a plan to build the International Space Station, while Canadian and Japanese space agencies agreed to join, as well as the European Space Agency (ESA), of which britain is a key member. The assembly of the space station began in 1998, requiring the United States to send 30 spacecraft and Russia to launch more than 40 rockets to send components and modules to the station, which was officially completed in 2011. Astronauts have been busy building space stations for years, and it was only in recent years that they were able to focus on rigorous scientific research, including more than 3,000 experiments with thousands of scientists on Earth.

The final cost of building the International Space Station exceeds $100 billion (about 670 billion yuan). The annual cost of space station maintenance and service flights soars to $4 billion ($26.8 billion). The United States paid most of it. Here’s the question: Is it really worth the huge spending?

Professor Ian Crawford, an expert in planetary science at Birkbeck College, University of London, believes it is worthwhile: “The space station is a model of high-level international cooperation, born at a time when the world desperately needs activities that bring people and nations together. And learning how to live and work in space is good for us, because we’re going back to the moon and maybe sending humans to Mars. “

In 2013, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield performed a space version of David Bowie’s Space Monster. Photo credit: Nasa/EPA

Other scientists, however, have different views. “You can’t justify spending a huge amount of money on the International Space Station.” Sir Martin Rees, an astronomer at the Royal Society, said: “First of all, its scientific returns now seem insignificant. We have some understanding of how the body will react to living in space for a long time, and we have grown some crystals in zero gravity, but this must not be compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars invested in the space station. In fact, the space station only makes lace news, such as a blocked toilet, or astronauts floating in the air playing guitars and singing. “

Reese added that NASA’s money could preferably be used to launch robotic missions to other planets, or to build orbital astronomical observatories and so on. His view was supported by Steve Weinberg, a Nobel Laureate and physicist at the University of Texas at Austin. “The only interesting scientific experiment done on the space station was the study of cosmic rays through the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, but the astronauts did not play any role in its operation.” “It’s much cheaper to put an instrument in orbit without a human mission,” he told the Observer. “

Oga added that at first he was very much questioning the scientific rationality of the International Space Station, but now he is convinced that this is a great success. “We’ve made great achievements in human space flight experience, space engineering, and the scientific output is huge. We’ve learned how to assemble giant structures in space, live in space for long periods of time, and deal with all kinds of unexpected situations. It is essential that we do not waste these experiences. “

And one of the important lessons that space station astronauts teach us is the effects of living in a zero-gravity environment on the human body for a long time. These effects include muscle loss, decreased bone density, and visual and taste impairment. Scientists have also found that astronauts can take years to restore bone density after four to five months in space. On the other hand, by using treadmills and weight machinery, astronauts can avoid the most serious consequences of muscle loss.

NASA is planning to continue to invest in the International Space Station over the next four or five years and says it hopes private companies will take over the station for commercial operations in the future. Official funding will be used for more cutting-edge space missions, such as exploring and settling on the moon, which could one day send humans to Mars. The projects will include the construction of gateways to the lunar space station, smaller than the International Space Station, which will orbit the moon and become a transit station for humans to explore the moon’s surface.

But are private companies interested in taking over the International Space Station? Initially, several companies expressed interest that they wanted to work there. Axiom Space, a Texas-based private company, has signed an agreement with NASA to build a modular component that will be used to research new materials, with actor Tom Cruise and director Doug Liman planning to fly a manned Dragon spacecraft to the space station next year to shoot several scenes from action-adventure movies. Space Hero, a reality show scheduled to air in 2023, has also announced plans to send the winner to the International Space Station.

It remains to be seen whether an event like this will be enough to keep people investing billions of dollars to run the space station. Another option would be to disintegrate the space station and let it fall into the Earth in a spiral downward spiral, hoping that the parts would burn up in the atmosphere.

If that’s the case, it would be a terrible waste, Cockerell said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve come to an agreement and built a space station. Without it, it’s unlikely to be another one in the short term, so we need to encourage companies to run the space station, at least for another decade. “