Biocurious is a weblog about biology, quantified.

Space Station Science: Play time!

by Andre on 2 October 2007

Bob Park is no fan of the space station and while it seems that some science is being done there this comes at the expense of other projects:

The House Space Subcommittee told NASA to cover the latest $200M shortfall from existing accounts. But not just any existing accounts; Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the Subcommittee chair, told Wilbur Trafton, NASA’s space station chief, that he wants the money taken from Mission to Planet Earth, the environmental monitoring program Rohrabacher hates. NASA has already transferred $462M from space science to keep the space station on schedule.

The total cost of the space station is over $100 billion although it seems difficult to estimate the exact cost. Keep that in mind when enjoying this really neat demonstration:

Playing with bubbles is fun, but the American Physical Society wasn’t (and isn’t) convinced:

It is the view of the Council of the American Physical Society that scientific justification is lacking for a permanently manned space station in earth orbit. We are concerned that the potential contributions of a manned space station to the physical sciences have been greatly overstated and that many of the scientific objectives currently planned for the space station could be accomplished more effectively and at a much lower cost on earth, on unmanned robotic platforms, or on the shuttle.

Biophysics also has a role to play here. It has been claimed that there will be significant advances made in protein crystallography as a result of experiments in microgravity but an NRC study found that

The results so far are inconclusive, and the impact of microgravity crystallization on structural biology as a whole has been extremely limited. At this time, one cannot point to a single case where a space-based crystallization effort was the crucial step in achieving a landmark scientific result.

This is sad. I’ve always been enamored with space exploration and I find Carl Sagan’s arguments about both the allure and necessity of a mature space program for humanity compelling, but so much potential seems to have been squandered on the shuttle program (meant to be a cheaper way of getting stuff into space) and the space station. Now there’s Moon-Mars. What’s going on?

  1. Anders    3974 days ago    #

    So, for the cost of what some people call ‘middle-east freedom’ ( you could build about four or five space stations, and compared to these figures something like the LHC ( or ITER ( is just peanuts…

  2. Fred Ross    3974 days ago    #

    Wow! The space station lets us look at waves bouncing around a little sphere of water.

    Or we can abort the Space Goose and do really good measurements of the waves propagating through the early universe, not to mention searching for extrasolar planets and putting up the successor to Hubble.

    APS is overly polite. There is no scientific reason to put humans in space.

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