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End Space-Station Funding Right Now

February 12, 2018 in Economics

By Laurence M. Vance


By: Laurence M. Vance

Donald Trump’s possible decision to end NASA’s funding of the International Space Station by 2025 brings up that age-old question of the proper role of government, although it is certainly not he who is bringing it up.

The International Space Station (ISS) program is a joint operation between NASA and the space agencies of Russia, Japan, Canada, and eleven countries of Europe. According to NASA’s “Reference Guide to the International Space Station.”

NASA and the space agencies of Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada have hosted investigators from 83 nations to conduct over 1700 investigations in the long-term micro-gravity environment on-board the ISS. Many investigators have published their findings and others are incorporating findings into follow-on investigations on the ground and onboard. Their research in the areas of earth and space science, biology, human physiology, physical sciences, and technology demonstration will bring yet to be discovered benefits to humankind and prepare us for our journey beyond low Earth orbit.

The first of many components of the ISS was launched into orbit in November 1998. Assembly was completed in July 2011. The station has been continuously occupied by a maximum of six astronauts from various countries since November 2000.

The ISS is the largest man-made object to ever orbit the Earth. In NASA’s reference guide, it is described thus:

The ISS has a mass of 410,501 kg (905,000 lbs) and a pressurized volume of approximately 916 m3 (32,333 ft3). The ISS can generate up to 80 kilowatts of electrical power per orbit from solar arrays which cover an approximate area of 2,997 m2 (32,264 ft2). The ISS structure measures 95 m (311 ft) from the P6 to S6 trusses and 59 m (193 ft) from PMA2 to the Progress docked on the aft of the Russian Service Module. The ISS orbital altitude can range from 278-460 km (150-248 nautical miles) and is in an orbital inclination of 51.6 degrees. The ISS currently houses 6 crew members.

The ISS is so large it can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It maintains an orbit between 205 and 270 miles above the Earth, and completes 15.5 orbits per day.

Of course, all of this comes at a price — an enormous price to U.S. taxpayers.

The ISS is the most expensive object ever built. According to a recent audit by NASA’s Office of Inspector General, “Through fiscal year (FY) …read more


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