With President Obama taking the budget axe to some of NASA's most darling projects lately, it makes sense that the agency might look at ways to cut down on waste by getting a little more mileageout of its current hardware. A proposal by NASA's "Blue Sky" group would do exactly that, repurposing a room on the ISS as a crew capsule for a manned mission to an asteroid.
Node 3 is one of the newest additions to the space station (it's the one with the big panoramic cupola window) and contains everything an astronaut on a deep space mission might want: Life support systems, astronaut sleeping quarters, and a nice view. If it were detached from the ISS and fitted to two space exploration vehicles, it could serve as crew quarters for a long-duration spaceflight.
At 24 feet long by 15 feet wide, Node 3 would offer a good deal of space in which astronauts could live and work, and that space could be expanded using attachable inflatable structures (the companion space exploration vehicles would also be fitted with pressurized cabins). A spinning centrifuge could even be installed, theoretically, to provide some artificial gravity to help astronauts avoid muscle and bone atrophy during the long trip.
And the timing couldn't be better. Right now, the ISS is slated to run through 2020, and if its mission is not extended by the partner nations that support it, it will become another piece of orbiting space waste. President Obama has set a 2025 goal to launch a mission to an asteroid, and Node 3 would be freshly defunct in the years leading up to that launch.
I've always wondered... why not just send the whole thing a bit further out. First off as a lunar satellite and use it as a transition stage, or even Mars. But I thought that kind of stuff before we scrapped all plans related to the moon.
That is an interesting idea. I wonder what kind of propulsion would be required to gently nudge the station out of orbit to coast into a lunar one. I wonder if lunar gravity is substantial enough to maintain a larger satellite such at the ISS.
wonder wonder wonder...
That would be a good idea to make it a moon stepping point. We could possible get it and keep it there by building a sending up a propulsion section. Use solar to power it or something that wouldn't require a lot of trips to refuel it. Once its gotten the station to the moon it could act as a orbital unit to keep the stations orbit around the moon.
The Space Station cannot be pushed to Lunar Orbit, Geostationary Orbit,or a Lagrange Point. The reason for this is that the connections between the modules and trusses are very, very weak. It's basically held together only by flimsy power cables and a pressure seal on each hatch. It's just not possible without reengineering the whole thing.
Individual modules can be propelled, however. They're designed to take the G forces of a Shuttle launch.
I do wonder, however, why NASA's not just using the ISS Habitation Module, which was constructed and then cancelled in the aftermath of STS-107. It's already on earth, so reconfiguring it should be easier than going to LEO and modifying Node 3.
So... we trash a multi-million dollar space station after a mere 22 years in orbit? What the _hell_ is the point of deorbiting it? Even if its not useful on its own anymore, we could at least recycle the substantial amount of raw materials for new space project.
Anyway, I do think at least reusing/recycling it is a good idea for a future space mission. But honestly, I'd hoped for an asteroid landing some time in this decade. Then Obama went into office...
I was suggesting that they move it to Luna orbit when the talk was all about just de-orbiting this multibillion dollar machine. Now maybe with other lunar/Lagrange2 plans being kicked around it might be a feasible idea, although I know now that my idea at the time of just slowly cruising it out there was not possible. As spacenut said, it's just too fragile. I think it probably could be ferried out there 2 modules at a time with safety provided a slow trip outbound were implemented, though. The docking rings and seals are of much higher quality than those used to connect during the Apollo missions. If nothing else, just the idea that it could be used as an emergency waystation is more than reason enough not to ever de-orbit it. It is a given that it is only a matter of time before we will need that kind of capability. The usage discussed in this topic, as well as the transfer of experiments to a .org; and even the Lockheed proposal could all be accommodated. Truthfully; I'd prefer something like this for another reason as well. We have a limited number of Lagrange points, and the idea that these priceless pieces of non-real estate be inhabited or controlled by a corporation or single government over the interests of the international community of our world doesn't sit well with me. It sets a dangerous precedent for space exploration.