The International Space Station Developes Into a Black Hole



Throughout the last year the International Space Station, otherwise known as ISS, has been the core of a bad apple. It was originaly thought, in 1993, that the ISS would cost $14 billion, but as of now the budget to totaly build the ISS is $21 billion, and may very well reach $24 billion and beyond.

As if the United States paying for our part of the ISS wasn't enough of a burden, the Clinton administration had decied to also pay for the Russians. This is a result of the depression that Russia is going through, and because Clinton decied to give Russia a critical amount of work, with their agreement, even though they are in the middle of a depression. As a result, there has been an extra $600 million increase in the funding, from the US, to the ISS.

I have recently finished a poll on this very subject, and 80% of the people said that the $21,000,000,000 is too much money to be spent on this project. Consiedering there are many unsolved problems to tend to here on Earth, why should we spend money on technology we can live without, and have done so for many years, then put money toward ending Cancer, AIDS, or any other epidemic?

Please voice your opinion. I consider myself very open minded, and would apriciate your opinion in the form of a reply.

Send me your comments.
I agree. We should be spending the money from ISS on manned missions to mars and other places. Then with the money left over, we should build a base on mars. I believe this would be alot more profitable then a hunk of junk orbiting earth....

Has any survey been done on the total amount of money presently being spent on Aids, Cancer...etc. researches ?

You are very correct in saying that the amount spent for space research is exorbitand, but like all venues it is a needed ill to our society...

I think the ISS is a tragedy when we could afford to go to mars on that kind of money. However I would sooner have it spent on space research than health issues and other social stuff.

My reason for this is not just as a cold hearted bastard but I beleive that in the long run space travel will be far more beneficial to mankind than curing a disease (more evolve everyday so its a short term victory at best).

Is the amount too much for what it _should_ cost? Yes. In an ideal situation it would cost less. But unfortunately, that's what happens when a government agency controls it and it happens with _any_ government project no matter what the sector. Sure it would be cheaper if it had been done by a private corporation. But then everything would be profit oriented instead of result oriented and that would cause it's own problems.

However, is it worth it? I'd say yes. We're going to learn more that can help in many areas because of constant microgravity research. As it's happened in the past with shuttle missions into this area, this will result in better material developement, drug research (which has already made drugs to help AIDS and cancer patients), and a whole group of secondary products. Someone posted on another board that they believed ISS would deliver $2 on ever $1 spent. I think that might be optimistic, but I don't think we should count out ISS's value yet. Remember, people said the same about the Hubble telescope. Would they say the same thing now?

Lastly, I don't think we could go to Mars on that money. We could send more robotic probes, but definitely not humans, yet. We have the basic technology, but not the technology to make it cheap let alone get there _and_ build a base. Even though humans have been in space for awhile now, we know relatively little about what the long term effects, both psychologically and physically, are. I'm all for a manned mission to Mars, but when we're ready, and we're not. Let's learn how to swim in the shallows before diving into the deep end.
Accually the price for going to Mars has been drastically reduced. With the new Mars Direct plan ( the price tag has been set at 15-20 billion dollars for the first mission, later missions would be around 10 billion each. After a couple missions, the hab complexes will be linked together to form a primordial base. This expanding base would prove to be much more valuable than a really expensive microgravity experiment!!

Goto The Mars Society ( to find out more about the fabulous plan to go to Mars in the next decade!!!!

Yea, I read that in a Popular Science magazing a while back.
The Way I see it all that money is being spent on Earth.. Not in space.. so whats the problem.. That money creates jobs, working people pay taxes, taxes pay for more space programs.. its a wonderful life..

That's great that the price has gone down that much and I applaud the Mars Society's work. They are doing an excellent job getting people involved and working towards this goal.

You're right that in the long run a Mars colony is more valuable than the ISS, but I don't think we can at this point run a successful colony. I don't mean that we don't have the money or tech to do it, but more the experience. Do we really know how to live in space? What about emergencies? That's the main reason why I think the ISS isn't a waste of money. It's giving us more experience about how to live in space. The way I see it, we need to take smaller steps before going to Mars. First ISS, then a lunar colony (anoter plug: check out Artemis Society at, and then a Mars colony. Of course, this doesn't mean that we can't all work on these projects at the same time. :)
Actually, I don't think we even have the technology adequate to support a mars colony. Sure, we can establish one that'll live for maybe 10 years, but then it will start breaking down and need upgrades and repair. While access to space is still at $10,000/pound, it would be unimaginably expensive to maintain such a colony, let alone expand it. Just think of our past efforts going to the Moon: it cost us a VERY pretty penny, and in the end wasn't worth much more than sending remote-controlled robots. In the end, the whole program was scrapped.

I think a lot more work has to be done on space transportation tech to drop the price to $100s/pound, as well as increase durability and lightness of materials (perhaps through self-repair or nanotech). Then, colonies on other bodies (like the Moon and Mars) will become financially feasible, and then maybe even profitable. I'd say we'll be at this point in tech development within 20 years, based on the research proposals coming out of NASA.

Meanwhile, I think the ISS work is very valuable. It'll not only help us do more research on materials, transportation and long-term health effects to name a few topics, but it'll also test some of the new ideas in space construction -- and it'll keep the Russians busy. There's a reason why US gov. is so concerned about countries like China getting access to the latest technologies. Yet that's exactly what would happen should the Russian space scientists and engineers become unemployed. Think of the $600M/year as a national security investment (not to mention an investment in protecting the US space industry from possible competition by potential space giants such as China could be).
Sometimes we (humans) concentrate so much on dollars that we leave little room for contemplating the "if's". For example If we set-up a base on Mars who will live there? You all know that the first choice will be scientist, then those who can afford the price of travel to Mars. I think that will leave out a wide variety of people. Soon the colonist of Mars will only recognize those who are of "higher education." What about the "gifted cluster" of human beings inhabiting planet Earth? How will they be represented? Also, if we continue to spend money on space programs how can we regulate private industry involvement (Ooh No, not the Corporations)? There are so many other things to consider than the price tag.

I would like to see developement in space as well as travel out there however, I am not sure we (humans) can control our hunger for power over something or somone. We need to develope another focus for our reasons to enter the cosmos. What do you guys think?
What is expensive now only becomes cheaper after massive amounts of money is spent to make it cheaper. The ISS will offer a gateway to the solar system, a future start platform for any Mars missions which may be planned. As for emergency funding for the Russians, everybody seems to forget that without the Russians and thier Proton launch vehicle none of the core components of the ISS would even make it into space. They`re simply too big for any western launch vehicle to inject into orbit!
We must not forget either that it`s not just Russia and the US in this, there are a host of other nations contributing including the European Space Agency, offering this project a high status in international co-operation all in the name of scientific research, which can`t be a bad thing, can it?
Well put, Mike -- but, scientific cooperation alone will not justify the billions of expenditure; we can have international cooperations for much less. It's the unique benefits of the ISS, the associated boost to promising technologies, and the potential of accelerated space access that warrant that amount of money.

As for the real drive for space access -- it simply must be commercial. Every great frontier conquest was always commercial ly motivated or driven -- from discovery of America to the subjugation of the West. Ideology alone will get us nowhere -- abundantly demonstrated by the former Soviet Union. I know, it's not as romantic as we would like -- but all things great inevitably tend to be ugly at the outset. It's just that we are lazy by nature -- and the best motivation for doing anything difficult for any amount of time seems to be greed -- not duty, not adventure, nor noble pursuits. I'm not saying everyone's like that -- but unfortunately the great majority seem to be. And when it comes to space, we need support of the majority, not the noble and dedicated few.
You know, in as much as I would like to disagree with you Boris,you speak the truth. The discovery of America was a "great thing" for the "greedy" majority. The unfortunate indians and Africans (as imported cargo) never stood a chance! Even though I would not like to live any place else, I am not proud that we are a "lazy" society driven by greed.

I guess "we the people" will take on the task of conquering the cosmos in the same manner as we did in the "new world." Which doesn't say to much about the advancement of mankind!
I think that we rellay need that space station.before we can reach to the new planet.The colony in the space is the first thing we must conquer.

I really disagree with you on this matter. I believe it is alot more important to learn how to develop bases that are accually going to be beneficial to us. A base on a planet is capable of using the resources in its surroundings, and in space there is no resources (all the resources will have to be brought there from other places, which is very inefficent and costly!). Now I know we've all seen sci-fi programs like Deep Space nine, where they live in a gigantic intergalactic city, but if you think about it that city has to get all its supplies from somewhere else. If it weren't for star trek's high technology, then the whole place would turn into space junk. Don't you see the point I'm trying to make?

-Double Overdrive


But you know, I think the first commercial ventures will actually not be planet-based but asteroid-based. You know, all that iridium and nickel out there -- pretty sweet stuff. Any decent asteroid is probably worth trillions in today's dollars.
And all you have to do is establish a little mining facility and transportation to/from it.

And then you've got all those space pirates stealing your cargo, so you build up a fleet of space police -- and before you know it, you've got Star Wars... May the force be with us! :D

I am; therefore I think.

[This message has been edited by Boris (edited May 29, 1999).]

You are correct about the possible wealth from astroids and other debris in space. But what good is going to come from a space station making rings around the Earth. Would it be possible to build bases on asteroids, or were you saying that in some way the precious metals from asteroids can be used by the space base?

-Double Overdrive
Well, I guess I was saying that bases will be established on asteroids (as in mining facility type of base). As for the benefit of the ISS, see above; I've already said plenty on the issue.

But stations in general might not be a bad idea anyway. They could serve as refueling/repair/emergency rescue points for craft navigating the solar system. They could also serve as zero-g tourist attractions with breathtaking vistas. Finally, I see in the long run the possibility of building massive spacecraft in space; stations will be indispensable for that.

But you're right, we will need to develop planetary settlements as well, if for no other reason than to exploit the mineral resources there. Although I guess at the same time, planetary colonies will also ensure the survival of our species in the long run.

I am; therefore I think.