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.

6 thoughts on “Billion Dollar Soybean Pods Grown Aboard Space Station”

  1. It’s so sad and frustrating to read about the sorry state of affairs with regard to the International Space Station. What promised to be a wondrous feat of engineering that would herald a new age of serious, continuous zero-gravity research has instead turned into a spectacle, with a skeleton crew spending most of their time simply maintaining the station, rather than conducting actual research. Many blame the Russians being unable to meet their financial commitments as a result of their current troubled economy. Now, as CTV reports, the space station’s woes are hurting the Canadian Space Agency too. The CSA had budgeted $300 million for this year–one third of that will go towards ISS operation costs, which won’t leave much for CSA’s other programs. And ISS could wind up costing Canada even more, since the U.S. Congress capped its contributions last July, due to a $5-billion US projected cost overrun.

    For anyone who missed it, a related article here at SFT awhile ago discussed how a new Space Plane (in 2008) could help the space station’s predicament. Right now, only three crew members have been allowed aboard the Space Station at a time, because the Russian Soyuz evacuation craft can only fit three people. Since maintaining and operating the station requires almost the full-time efforts of three people, very little actual science has been accomplished so far. A 10-passenger space plane will allow more people to live aboard the station and conduct more research.

  2. What a mess…  Arthur C. Clarke is rolling in his grave and the guy isn’t even dead yet!

    The ISS is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle for the US which has ended up paying for every mission critical component other nations were supposed to take care of (especially Russia).  

    I hope a private commercial outfit blasts off in the next couple of years and constructs a floating, wagon wheel-like space hotel that blows away anything on the ISS.  No more touchy-feely political "let’s make everyone happy" junk – just basic market economics (who here wouldn’t want to vacation in orbit?)

    Junk the ISS and have some forward-thinking business market an orbiting "space hotel".  People could see a tangible benefit of space travel and exploration.

  3. So far the space program has been a private party for a few people along with the Military & Spooks of the U.S.A. & the U.S.S.R (Russia)at the expense of the long-suffering taxpayer. It is time that space was opened up to the people that have paid for it all along Mr & Mrs Taxpayer. It was never supposed to have been hijacked by the spooks but they have been playing with the truth ever since they got into space. If they open it up people will go, just like the “field of dreams” it is the next frontier and this generation who subsidized it should get a chance to see it before the die. It would also allow good old market forces to make it work and produce even more advances. When given a reason and an incentive man can accomplish amazing results. It is time to take the next step and open up space to everyone who wants to go on a new & different vacation.

  4. the u s government spending our tax dollars ,
    they could be used to help the sick, disable vets, hungry and starving americans that built this country, wayne bell

  5. Unfortunately, the companies that are capable of building a private space station do not have the gumption to pursue such an endeavor. Building a space station is a very expensive proposition, even without the government waste, and no one is willing to cough up billions of dollars without a guaranteed, immediate return on their money. It will be a long, long time before space is accessible by the public (your grandchildren may get to go). Access to space is orders of magnitude more difficult than flying through the atmosphere, so don’t expect the space program to take off like commercial aviation did almost a century ago.

  6. It may happen within our own lifetime. I see two possibilities that would make reaching orbit safe and cheap enough for private industry to flourish there. The first is anti-gravity, which may be discovered in a decade or never, so I won’t hold my breath. The second, though, is a space elevator, which we may see as early as 15 years from now, as detailed in this past article (see the comments too).

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