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How much longer will the space station fly?

  • Story Highlights
  • President Obama must decide how long to fund the international space station
     
  • NASA's funding of the space station is currently scheduled to end in 2016
     
  • The station's laboratory can conduct valuable science experiments
     
  • Obama may wish to shift NASA funding instead to missions to the moon or Mars
 
October 12, 2009 -- Updated 1616 GMT (0016 HKT)
 
By Rich Phillips
CNN Senior Producer
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(CNN) -- It's the most complex construction project in history.

NASA's funding of the international space station is scheduled to end in 2016.

NASA's funding of the international space station is scheduled to end in 2016.

Flying 250 miles overhead, the international space station can be seen with the naked eye, orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, usually carrying a crew of six. Now, before construction of the station is even complete, there is already talk of when the lights will be turned off.

NASA is waiting for the Obama administration to decide how much longer the station will fly and exactly which direction the U.S. space agency will take next -- a return to the moon, or maybe a trip to Mars?

The initial phase of the international space station was launched in 1998, although the station is still being expanded. The U.S. is one of 16 countries that help build and operate the station, whose laboratory runs a number of science experiments, including measuring the effects of space conditions, such as weightlessness, on humans.

The U.S. contribution to the space station so far: $44 billion. (NASA says it does not keep track of contributions from the other 15 partners.) NASA's funding of the space station is currently scheduled to end in 2016.

"The general idea that we would spend approximately 11 years building the space station, get it to its full operational capability, and then kind of abandon it a few years later ... doesn't make a lot of sense," said Robert Braun, a former NASA chief engineer. Braun currently is the director of Georgia Tech's Space Systems Design Laboratory.

An independent committee reviewing the future of U.S. human spaceflight recently recommended to the White House that the station's life be extended to 2020. Video Watch more on the future of the space station »

"You've got all of these different countries working together on this common project in space. And if we go ahead and stop ... it's going to break up that framework," said Leroy Chiao, a former space station commander and shuttle astronaut who sits on the advisory panel.

"The different countries around the world will lose confidence in the U.S. as a leader in space exploration," he said.

But the committee also found that the U.S. space program appears to be pursuing goals that exceed current funding levels. So it will be up to the Obama administration to chart a new course.

NASA has been planning on retiring the aging space shuttle fleet upon completion of the space station in 2011. That shuttle funding was to be used instead for NASA's next great endeavor -- the Constellation Program, which would take astronauts back to the moon.

But that means NASA would no longer have its own spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station. Until a new space vehicle is ready to fly, the U.S. will have to hitch a ride on Russia's Soyuz capsule.

The advisory committee has recommended flying shuttles on a reduced schedule through 2015 to help close that gap, Chiao told CNN.

"That gap is real," he said. "It's going to be there, and the only access we're going to have [to the space station] is to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz."

Part of the problem with the U.S. space agency's funding gap, according to some experts, is that NASA's culture is to build.

"We're always looking for that next engineering or construction project," said Marco Caceres, a senior analyst on aerospace at the Teal Group.

"But the big thing is the science, and you can't sell that to the public. It's not sexy," he said. "So NASA keeps moving on to other things, without putting the really hard work into doing what will benefit the people the most -- doing the things that station was designed to do in the first place."

Until now, the majority of the science done in space involves human experiments with microgravity. Such research is considered essential for long-duration missions on the space station, or for future trips to the moon or Mars. Biomedical challenges such as bone loss, cardiovascular issues, psychosocial issues and exposure to radiation must be resolved before humans can venture too far from Earth for too long.

While promised space research on diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's hasn't happened yet, some space science has brought encouragement.

Astrogenetix, a private company, has used the zero-gravity environment aboard space shuttle flights to develop a salmonella vaccine, which is moving through the Food and Drug Administration's approval process. Growing the bacteria in space is much easier than it is on Earth.

"That process on Earth ... can take up to 10 years. And we send it up to space, for really three trips, and we found that we already had a vaccine for salmonella," said company Chairman Thomas Pickens.

Astrogenetix also conducted an experiment on the last shuttle flight aimed at producing a vaccine for MRSA, a highly resistant staph infection.

Pickens said that up until now, the space station hasn't been a viable location for long-term, commercialized experiments.

"They've been under construction, and you wouldn't do heart surgery in the middle of a construction site for a skyscraper," he said.

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Now all NASA needs is direction from the White House -- and, of course, money. The station's backers say you don't spend a fortune constructing a customized house only to knock it down. But NASA also may need to conserve funds for a possible mission to Mars.

Observers should find out soon whether the hope of groundbreaking science is enough for Obama to keep the space station aloft.

 

All About NASAInternational Space StationSpace Shuttles

 

Hubble livre la vue la plus profonde de l'Univers

Le téléscope spatial Hubble.

Le télescope spatial Hubble (Nasa/Esa) a photographié l'Univers plus profondément que jamais. On voit sur cette image des galaxies telles qu'elles étaient 600 à 900 millions d'années seulement après le Big Bang. 


CERN'de korkulan olmadı

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hurriyet.com.tr/A.A. 30 Mart 2010
CERN'de korkulan olmadı
 
Evrenin nasıl oluştuğunu anlamak için bugün CERN'de büyük bir çarpışma gerçekleştirildi. Bilim adamları dünyada kara delikler açılmasından endişe ediyordu ancak korkulan olmadı.

DÜNYA BU PATLAMAYA KİLİTLENDİ

Bilim adamları bugün İsviçre'nin Cenevre kentinde 13.7 milyar yıl önce meydana gelen çarpışma sonrasında evrenin nasıl oluştuğunu anlamak için Avrupa Nükleer Araştırma Merkezi'nde (CERN) büyük bir çarpışma gerçekleştirdi. "Big Bang" adı verilen çarpışma Türkiye saatiyle 10.00' da başladı. 

Bilim adamları patlama sonrasında Dünya'ya zarar verecek "kara delikler" açılmasından endişe ediyordu ancak korkulan olmadı. Başarıyla gerçekleştirilen çarpışma sonrası rekor seviyede enerji ortaya çıktı. 

Dünyanın en büyük atom altı parçacık çarpıştırıcısı olan Büyük Hadron Çarpıştırıcısı şu ana kadar bu alanda yapılmış en yüksek enerjili deney oldu.

Proton huzmelerinin çarpıştırıldığı deneyde, “Büyük Patlama” ile ortaya çıkan evrendeki madde yapısının daha iyi anlaşılması amaçlanıyordu. Parçacıkların çarpıştırılması sonucundaki parçalanmayla ortaya çıkan alt parçacıkların neler olduğu belirlenmeye çalışıldı. Teorik düzeyde açıklaması yapılmış olan parçacıkların veya önerme düzeyindeki mikro güçlerin varlığı tespit edildi. 

ÇARPIŞMA 27 KM'LİK TÜNELDE YAPILDI

Proton huzmeleri, Cenevre'de, İsviçre-Fransa sınırında bulunan, 27 kilometrelik oval tünelde her iki yöne doğru harekete geçirilerek hızlandırıldı ve çarpıştırıldı. Bu proton parçacıkları, karşı yönlerden birbirlerine doğru 3.5 Tera elektron volt (3.5 trilyon elektron volt- TeV) enerjiyle çarpıştırıldı. Protonlar birbirlerine çarptıklarında, ışık hızına yakın bir hıza ulaşmış oldu. Bu enerji, bugüne kadar Avrupa ve ABD'deki çarpıştırıcılarda kaydedilen en yüksek enerji düzeyi olacaktı.

Çarpışmanın şiddetinin artırılmasıyla, çarpışma sonucundaki parçalanmalarla ortaya çıkan, daha önce gözlemlenememiş yeni alt parçacıkların gözlemlenmesi bekleniyor. Bu da, evrenin ortaya çıktığı “Büyük Patlama- Big Bang” anının bir küçük modelinin yapılması anlamına geliyor.

CERN Genel Müdürü Rolf-Dieter Heuer, yaptığı açıklamada, "Yeni Fiziğin kapılarını, insanlık tarihindeki yeni bir keşifler dönemini açıyoruz" dedi.

BİNLERCE BİLİM ADAMI ANALİZ YAPACAK

Parçacıklar birbirlerine çarptığında her bir çarpışmanın yarattığı mini patlamalar, dünyanın dört bir yanındaki binlerce bilimci tarafından zaman içerisinde incelenerek analiz edilecek. Bu analizlerle, 13.7 milyar yıl önce olduğu tahmin edilen Büyük Patlama'nın meydana geldiği anın hemen sonrasındaki koşullar anlaşılmaya çalışılacak. Yıldızların ve gezegenlerin kökeni, kara enerjinin ne olduğu, evrenin yüzde 25'ini oluşturduğu sanılan kara maddenin yapısı gibi sırlara erişilmeye çalışılacak. İskoç bilimci Peter Higgs'in 30 yılı aşkın bir süre önce ortaya attığı, maddeye kütlesini verdiği varsayılan Higgs bozonunun varlığı belirlenmeye çalışılacak. Paralel evrenlerin olup olmadığı, Büyük Patlama'dan önce ne olduğu gibi konularda düşünce üretilmesinin yolu açılabilecek.

Yıllar içerisinde çarpıştırma enerjisi 7 TeV'e kadar çıkarılacak. Her iki yönden parçacıkların çarpışmasından ötürü 14 TeV gücünde olacak bu çarpışmaya 2013'de ulaşılması planlanıyor. Bu güçte bir çarpışma da yepyeni başka keşiflerin kapısını açacak.


NASA/GM robot is head and shoulders above the rest

11:59 AM
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We may not yet have flying cars, but the auto industry apparently has a lot to offer the space exploration industry with robotic technology. 

On Wednesday, General Motors says NASA will launch a robot, which was jointly designed by the automaker and the government agency, into space later this year. The Robonaut 2, or R2 (no D2 -- that moniker might just be for the shorter robots) was designed to work alongside humans, either in space or on the car manufacturing line. 

This is the second auto industry/NASA announcement this week. On Tuesday, Chrysler and NASA announced an alliance to develop lighter-weight materials, more human-emulating robots and advanced batteries. And in late March, Toyota announced it was enlisting help from NASA engineers to help determine whether sudden acceleration problems could be caused by cosmic rays. 

The news all sounds like the makings of your standard sci fi drama:


 
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