High above the Earth? Drug consumption on the ISS

Paul Raven @ 07-12-2009

A digital rendering of the International Space StationThere may be little to no consumption of alcohol aboard, but there’s plenty of drugs on the International Space Station – albeit not for recreational purposes. The Discovery Space blog has a list of the contents of the ISS pharmaceutical kit-bag, of which this is just one [via SlashDot]:

Tranquilizers: […] astronauts keep a few tranqs on hand in case anyone goes all suicidal or psychotic in space. NASA recommends binding the individual’s wrists and ankles with duct tape (ever the space traveler’s friend!), strapping them down with a bungee cord and, if necessary, sticking them with a tranquilizer. Sure, it hardly makes for a civilized evening aboard ISS, but it beats someone blowing the hatch because they think they saw a something crawling on one of the solar panels.

Good old NASA, always thinking ahead. If you’re still curious about the astronaut lifestyle, Bruce Sterling has written a piece based on an interview with Nicole Stott that sums up what it’s like to live in space:

The time you spend in outer space will change your blood and hormone levels, and your bones and muscles will slowly waste away. A three-month stay is optimal; six months is pushing it. You’re going to need to get in shape and remember to pack light.

With that understood, let’s settle in. Built over the course of ten years by a wide variety of contractors­­—–and still a work in progress—–the ISS is a hodgepodge trailer camp graced with quite a lot of Russian design. It features two basic living elements: big round tubes, trucked up there in the American Space Shuttle, and smaller knobby tubes, fired up on other people’s rockets. All these pods have been snapped together, mostly end to end, or, as you’ll say on the station, “fore and aft.”

In a nutshell: it’s not exactly a five star hotel. But you know what?

I’d still go tomorrow if they gave me the chance. [image by FlyingSinger]


Space is the place

Paul Raven @ 15-07-2009

CGI rendering of the International Space Station Thanks to the anniversary of the Apollo Moon landings, everyone’s talking about space at the moment – and it’s still as contentious and passionate a subject as ever. [image by FlyingSinger]

Charlie Stross looks back at the Moon landings and decides that despite the huge advances in technology since the 60s, NASA’s proposed Constellation Moon landing program is unlikely to come off:

Today we lack a vital resource that both Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev took for granted: thousands of engineers with the experience of designing, building, and launching new types of rocket in a matter of years or even months. We used to have them, but some time in the past 40 years they all retired. We’ve got the institutions and the data and the better technology, but we don’t have the experience those early pioneers had. And I’m betting that the process of rebuilding all that institutional competence is going to run over budget. While NASA’s Constellation program might work, and while it could deliver far more valuable lunar science than Apollo ever did, it will inevitably cost much more than NASA’s official estimates suggest, because it’s too big a project for today’s NASA — NASA, and indeed the entire space industrial sector in the USA, would have to grow, structurally, to make it work.

Elsewhere, Paul McAuley laments the ‘disposable space truck’ model of space flight, saying it’s:

like building an ocean liner to cross the Atlantic and setting fire to it when you reach New York.

Meanwhile, SpaceX have just completed their first commercial satellite launch, successfully putting a Malaysian Earth-imaging sat into orbit.

SpaceX landed a NASA contract for hauling cargo up to the ISS some time ago, but it looks like they won’t be able to rely on that as a long-term entry on the balance sheet, as Bruce Sterling points to an article in the Washington Post wherein NASA’s space program manager announces the controversial plan to de-orbit (and hence destroy) the International Space Station when the budget runs out in 2016:

Suffredini raised some eyebrows when, at a public hearing last month, he declared flatly that the plan is to de-orbit the station in 2016. He addressed his comments to a panel chaired by former aerospace executive Norman Augustine that is charged by the Obama administration with reviewing the entire human spaceflight program. Everything is on the table — missions, goals, rocket design. And right there in the mix is this big, fancy space laboratory circling the Earth from 220 miles up.

The cost of the station is both a liability and, paradoxically, a virtue. A figure commonly associated with the ISS is that it will ultimately cost the United States and its international partners about $100 billion. That may add to the political pressure to keep the space laboratory intact and in orbit rather than seeing it plunging back to Earth so soon after completion.

Apparently physicist and vocal space critic Robert Park suggests palming off the money-eating white elephant on the Chinese instead. I’d have thought auctioning it off to the highest bidder would have made more sense, and I’m pretty sure there’s be some interested parties – China included, but plenty of non-state parties also.

And finally, via Warren Ellis comes something for flicking your geek switches – HFradio.org can supply you with space weather updates via Twitter. As Ellis remarks, “it’s like the Shipping Forecast for space”… now all we need is a way to convert it to an audio stream. Anyone got a zero-g Nabaztag?


Stephen Colbert’s DNA to back up the human race

Tom James @ 10-09-2008

geneUm. I can’t really add much to the title, churnalism be damned, this is good stuff:

Comedy Central announced Monday that the host of The Colbert Report will have his DNA digitized and sent to the International Space Station (ISS). According to the Associated Press, Stephen Colbert’s gene package will be carried there by famed video game designer Richard Garriott, who will travel to the station in October.

All in all, a great day for humanity. Also I wonder what a gene package looks like?

[story via KurzweilAI][image from Joe Madon flickr]


Jules Verne – the first cargo ship in space

Tomas Martin @ 06-03-2008

The ATV Jules Verne will be the first unmanned European spacecraftThis Saturday marks the launch of the biggest vessel in European space history – the Automated Transport Vehicle (ATV), Jules Verne. Named for the classic SF writer, the 21-ton spacecraft is the first unmanned ship launched by Europe to transport goods through space. Russia has some unmanned vehicles, the Progress spaceships. The US Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz craft also visit the International Space Station but Jules Verne is the first new type of craft in 9 years.

“The ATV, as a logistics vehicle, carries almost three times the hardware, fuel, water and oxygen that a Russian Progress carries,” said NASA’s ISS program manager Mike Suffredini. “It is a major contribution to the program.”

The Jules Verne will travel for a week catching up with the International Space Station before docking. The astronauts will remove the fuel and equipment within and send the ATv back to Earth in six months time, filled with waste material. Jules Verne will burn up in the atmosphere although in the future reentry-proof canisters may be included.

[story and image via Space.com]


Next ISS space tourist announced

Tobias Buckell @ 28-09-2007

Space Adventures announces that Richard Garriott will be the next private citizen to travel to space as a tourist.

Garriott’s father was a NASA astronaut, so that makes it a unique flight. Son pays to fly up, dad was part of a giant government project to fly up.

The flight is October 2008, and Garriott already has a website set up where he’ll be chronicling the whole thing.


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