Billion Dollar Soybean Pods Grown Aboard Space Station


USA Today reports the International Space Station (ISS) has a faulty power supply in its science glovebox. This is expected to cancel at least a quarter of the science experiments planned for Expedition Six, which is 3 men aboard ISS for around 100 days. The faulty power supply will drop the total expected science research hours from 200 hours down to 150 hours during the 7200 or so crew hours logged during Expedition Six, from around 3% of total crew time down to around 2% of total crew time. The other 97% of E6 crew time spent aboard ISS for non-science activities is expected to be unaffected.

Meanwhile, NASA is preparing contingency plans to abandon ISS since the cash-starved Russians may be unable to continue producing Soyuz lifeboat vehicles for the three-person ISS crew. These lifeboats must be changed out every six months to assure a safe return to Earth for the crew in the event of an emergency like fire or resupply ship collision. NASA was developing a Soyuz capsule replacement, but the X-38 was canceled earlier this year.

In other recent ISS news, the Government Accounting Office says it will be spring before they have a public number for the total financial expenditures on ISS from its inception as Space Station Freedom to date. Reasonable estimates reported (in then-year dollars, ignoring 20 years of inflation and supporting Space Shuttle flights at roughly a half-billion dollars each) are in the range of $11 billion from 1984 to 1993 to develop the original Space Station Freedom, $25 billion more from 1994 to present to include the Russians in the re-named ISS, and over $6 billion to finish ISS according to NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, for a total of $42 billion.

Finally, NASA announced several weeks ago the successful harvesting during ISS Expedition 5 of 42 soybean pods.