One Giant Leap (Backwards) For Humankind: What The Russia-Ukraine War Means For The ISS

The International Space Station was built not only in the name of science and exploration, but as a symbol of unity. Five space agencies, some representing countries who had been bitter Cold War rivals hardly a decade before the ISS was launched, came together to build something out of a sci-fi novel: a home among the stars (well, in Low Earth Orbit) for humans from around the globe to work with one another for the sake of scientific advancement, high above the terrestrial politics that governed rock below. That was the idea, at least.

So far, while there has been considerable sound and fury in social media channels, international cooperation in space seems to continue unhindered. What are we to make of all this bluster, and what effects could it have on the actual ISS?

Politics and Tweets

Mark Vande Hei
Astronaut Mark Vande Hei

A lot has changed in the 2.5 decades since the station’s first modules were launched into space. Political relationships that had had begun to slowly heal after the Cold War have been unraveling for years now, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine being the latest catalyst for global discord. As a result, the ISS’s idealogical high ground is more in jeopardy today than it ever has been before.

The most recent challenge has come directly from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. In a recent statement (in Russian, which I admittedly do not speak), Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin threatened to abandon American astronaut Mark Vande Hei on the station and detach the Russian modules to punish the US for newly-imposed sanctions.

Vande Hei is currently scheduled to depart the station in a few weeks via a Russian Soyuz capsule to end his record-breaking 355-day stay in space. After reentry, the capsule is slated to land in Kazakhstan before the passengers, Vande Hei and two cosmonauts, are ferried back to Baikonur Cosmodrome. Thankfully, Roscosmos recanted their threat before the cosmonauts tour out the third seat in their capsule, and promised to return Vande Hei back to Earth — but the threat of splitting up the station still lingers.

What is Possible?

Roscosmos's depiction of the Russian section detaching
Roscosmos’s depiction of the Russian section detaching

The ISS is a modular beast. It was launched in pieces over the course of years, each piece different module of what would one day be a complete station. The final assembly consists of a US section (eight modules) and a Russian section (six modules), plus two Japanese modules and an European module. What Rogozin has threatened is to basically pack up and leave — to detach the Russian section and essentially back out of the international partnership. Roscosmos even made a rather unhinged video which shows the modules detaching and floating away. It’s not immediately clear whether the Russian section would be decommissioned and deorbited, or whether Roscosmos would somehow be able to turn the Russian section into its own independent station.

NASA has expressed disbelief of Russia’s ability to simply float off into the sunset and maintain an operational station. Last week, the head of NASA’s ISS program, Joel Montalbano, said that “the international Space Sation was designed to be interdependent, and together we work, it’s not a process where one group can separate and function.” The US section cannot function without Russia’s thrusters and fuel, and the Russian section cannot function without the US’s power and communications. It is, as Rogozin himself stated recently, “a family, where a divorce within a station is not possible”.

A Twitter thread with Scott Kelly and Dmitry Rogozin
Kelly calling Rogozin out for deleting his threatening Tweet

While it may seem like this takes the legs out from underneath the Russian threats, the interdependence makes them even scarier. If Roscosmos did make good on its word, the remainder of the ISS could have a difficult time maintaining its orbit — though Elon Musk has suggested (via Twitter, of course) that SpaceX could provide a solution (perhaps using Dragon 2 capsules?) to keep the ISS in orbit.

Twitter has played a unique role in many facets of the Russia-Ukraine war so far, and the space industry is no exception. Former astronaut Scott Kelly has been engaged in a Tweet-slinging battle with Dmitry Rogozin, in which Rogozin dropped yet another thinly-veiled threat implying that the ISS’s days may be numbered. He quickly deleted the Tweet, but not before Kelly screenshotted it for all to see, and questioned how Rogozin was even able to access Twitter, a site that the Russian government blocked earlier in the month.

Kelly also tweeted that he would be returning a medal he received from Russia “For Merit in Space Exploration,” writing “Please give it to a Russian mother whose son died in this unjust war. I will mail the medal to the Russian embassy in Washington. Good luck.”

For all of the saber-rattling coming from Roskosmos, NASA is taking it in stride. Administrator Jim Nelson said “That’s just Dmitry Rogozin. He spouts off every now and then. But at the end of the day, he’s worked with us.”


All this talk about the station splitting up may have you wondering — how many years does it have left anyway?

Not as many as you might hope. The current plan is for the ISS to meet its fiery end at a watery grave in January of 2031, less than nine years from now. NASA and most other space agencies involved in the project have already agreed that they would work to keep the station alive until at least 2028, but even before tensions with Russia escalated recently, Roscosmos wouldn’t commit to supporting the station past 2024. With this context, the Russian threat to leave the ISS program early has really just been part of the Cyrillic writing on the station’s aging walls.

Losing Roscosmos as a partner in the international space community would be a setback to say the least, and would certainly end the ISS. For decades, space exploration and scientific advancement were some of the few things that brought Russia together with the US and Europe — the ISS’s crew complement was regularly made up of explorers from around the globe, all working and living together while hurdling around the Earth at 7.7 km/s.

In the near-decade between NASA’s Shuttle and Commercial Crew programs, US astronauts relied on Soyuz rockets for their ride into space, and Russian cosmonauts still routinely train at the Johnson Space Center in Texas. Russian and US/EU competencies complement each other, adding up to a bigger sum. The ISS has served as an aspirational beacon of global cooperation for over twenty years, and it would be a terrible shame and a colossal step backwards to the development of humankind to see the next generation of space stations built separately, rather than jointly.

89 thoughts on “One Giant Leap (Backwards) For Humankind: What The Russia-Ukraine War Means For The ISS

    1. Well, if you’re looking for more typos, I can help with that… :->
      “…the cosmonauts TOUR out the third seat in their capsule…”
      That should probable be “tore”. :-)
      (And, of course you’re welcome to delete this post at any time… :-) )

  1. > In a recent statement (in Russian, which I admittedly do not speak), Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin threatened to abandon American astronaut Mark Vande Hei on the station and detach the Russian modules to punish the US for newly-imposed sanctions.

    Wrong link? I watched the interview (admittedly, at 2x speed + skipping by 10 seconds at at time). There’s only one bit about ISS and how it’s one of the most important projects that Rogosin would like to keep working if at all possible (another important project is ExoMars). Most of the interview is about sanctions imposed on Roscosmos-adjacent companies. There doesn’t seem to be anything about Mark Vande at all.

    Source: I speak Russian.

  2. One shouldn’t assume what each individual considers themselves. That is why we must change the language to respect people’s preferences of identity and description. If you have not asked the person what they prefer to be known as, you must suffix any such descriptive words with something that expresses a degree of uncertainty, such as “-kind” or “-ish”, or more poignantly: “-assumed”.

    Therefore, a man may be initially described as “maleassumed”, a woman “femaleassumed”, and both also “personassumed” and “humanassumed” etc. However, one should note that in Russian speaking countries, in the latter two cases the party to which you should direct the follow-up question to clarify the matter is not the person being described, but rather the local government office or the police. This also applies if you are unsure of someone’s political affiliations, including your own.

        1. Shouldn’t that be “transhu-person-ist” and “posthu-person-ist”?

          Back here in the real world, all humans (oh sorry, hu-persons) are part of humanity. Men, women, children are make up humanity and humankind.

        2. Ah, you’re absolutely right, but let me be precise: it should be “trans-assumed-human-assumed-ist-assumed”. The inconvenience of such language also serves as its own punishment for attempting to assume things you are in no authority to declare.

    1. Are you saying someone who the author is including in the term “humankind” might not identify as human? Are you saying we can’t have a blanket word that refers to all intelligent apes of the homo genus unless every one of them agrees to identify with that word? And you are relating that to gender? I think that’s crazy talk and it does a dis-service to people for whom assumed gender might actually be an issue.

      1. Yes. Yes. By logical necessity. No – you might think it is crazy, but assuming someone’s identity is the very fundamental problem we are all dealing with. You can’t dismiss the argument in one hand and then agree with it in the other – that’s hypocritical.

        If someone should assert that you are a free individual – well they didn’t ask you, so how can you be? You’re being forced into a categorical pigeonhole and therefore aren’t! Identities are all social constructs, so the choice belongs to the individual-assumed in the absolute. There’s no other way about it, if we do not wish to be oppressive.

        1. you cannot expect someone to observe something without their own point of view. case in point, a color blind person will say “brown” while someone with hyper color sensitivity may say the specific color and a coder may use the hex value of the color while most people may just say “red”. expecting someone not to use their own frame of reference is disregarding their autonomy and perspective, or their humanity, if you will. 😁

  3. Even with the really impressive looking launch capacity on the horizon with Starship, and the rapid cadence and cheapness of smaller size launches already happening the cost to loft a new station even remotely as functional and the ISS means I doubt its going anywhere anytime soon, It will however keep evolving and with Russia’s current behavior without them involved anymore is quite plausible.

    Even if Russia demanded all their modules be disconnected right now there is a very long time for the remaining elements – the continuation of the ISS to be re-arranged and supplemented to replace the lost functionality. The worst I can see really happening, at least assuming Putin’s folly doesn’t escalate to all out war outside of Ukraine/Russia too far, is the ISS becomes unmanned for the first time in ages while a new configuration and supply cadence is worked out for the future…

        1. Indeed, but those once per month reboosts are not required to keep it safely in space when they are done, just to maintain the orbit it is meant to be on – there is a difference between station keeping and how long it takes to crash properly into the atmosphere when you don’t do it for a while.

          1. I did, but its not really relevant that they sometimes take a few months between boost, beyond being interesting, as it is still not actually required to boost then, could put it off for ages more – depending on just which orbit and how recently it has been boosted it should have over a year before its in any real peril of becoming impossible to recover or hits something else. As orbits are planned to avoid dead birds and junk as best as possible, and around the ISS’s pretty low orbit most of them won’t last long – so it is mostly under the more enduring junk layer we have created, and the small live satalites that might cross its unexpectedly decaying path will jump out the way as they don’t want a premature end to their service life, they might be comparatively cheap and short lived anyway but it is still another early retirement).

            So it could even have a vast amount longer than that.

  4. There is also the question whether the ISS is really needed much longer. Considering the scientific output, NASA releases annual metrics about the publications generated and it seems that the amount of research papers etc. peaked in 2020 and is gradually winding down anyways. If there aren’t any major upgrades to the station and the equipment, it will simply “run out of science” in a few years. (p.3. Figure 2.)

    1. Also note that it takes time to analyze results and publish the papers, so the number of papers being released today reflects research that was done months and years ago. Further upkeep of the station is likely to have rapidly diminishing results.

      Diverting the resources to building a new space station entirely would benefit space exploration and launch technology more, faster.

    2. Papers typically take 6 months at least to work their way through the pipeline. I can think of at least one other major event that happened in 2020 that might have impacted research productivity.

      1. Most of the papers in process through 2020 would have already been in the pipeline. Years to research and write the paper, then half a year to get it reviewed and published etc.

    3. Is “count of research papers” really the best metric for measuring scientific output? Isn’t hyperfocussing on that how we got Andrew Wakefield’s falsified paper on vaccines causing autism and the demon army of disease spreading anti-vaxers that it spawned?

      – sits back and watches all sorts of fights break out –

      Seriously though, supposedly “The International Space Station was built not only in the name of science and exploration”. But the view from where I sit is that it was just barely ever used to further exploration. I mean there always seemed to be Earth science, experiments in material science, drug research and even pure science being studied onboard the ISS. But aside the urine recycler and the growing of edible plants was anything done up there to further the technology required for actual humans exploring in space? And those plants were only grown just recently, so many years into the project after those other things started slowing down. It kind of seemed like they were running low on earth-focussed ideas for what to do on the space station after several minutes of silence in the meeting room some meek person finally raised a hand, “well, we have said we will need to grow plants in space for the last 50 years”.

      Wasn’t a space station originally sold to the public as being the next logical step in human space exploration after landing on the moon? Weren’t we supposed to be learning how to survive longer duration trips? How about using these last days to focus on that?

        1. With 20+ years in orbit, plus all the previous missions, how many times do we need to run the same experiment? On the other hand, since the crew rotation is relatively short, it seems that we aren’t even trying properly – or maybe the ISS is not really suitable for that sort of experiment?

          The longest time a person has stayed in orbit was 437.75 days, and that was on Mir.

          1. Yes, the stay is short because of the health problems associated with a long term stay in space. They have been iterations of different approaches, with lots of different individuals (because all bodies are unique and different), and I believe the durations in space have been increasing slowly.

          2. >Are you saying that biology in space is a solved problem?

            Further testing requires much longer missions than the ISS crew rotation, but because the ISS is not designed or suitable for such, it won’t bring any additional information in this regard. The results would be tainted by the sheer difficulty of living there for prolonged periods of time.

    4. I don’t think we are remotely close to running out of useful purposes for space station in LEO, but there is no doubt it will need to keep evolving – as it has done ever since the first modules were launched.

        1. No reason for it not to be the ISS though – if there is a need for LEO, which it seems like you agree there is, then bolting new bits onto an already functional station is orders of magnitude easier, safer and cheaper than trying to create an entirely standalone new one to meet those needs.

          And even if you really want to create an entirely standalone new one its much easier to start tethered to a proven reliable station that can support the assembly crew than have to keep sending new crews up from the ground because there isn’t viable life-support/power etc on the new one yet – and at that point unless you later separate, keeping both flying the new standalone one is the current embodiment of the ISS having shed its damaged/old/obsolete parts – which wouldn’t be the first time for that either if memory serves…

          If you look at the ISS from the early days in the 2000’s it grew really rapidly, and its never really stopped evolving, and I can’t see a reason for it stop doing so short of our species trying to earn a Darwin award, so eventually it is likely none of the original parts will still be up there, but its still the same ever evolving thing…

          1. > then bolting new bits onto an already functional station is orders of magnitude easier

            Depends. With an aging station that is in need of fundamental repairs and upgrades, the cost to keep it soon exceeds the cost of starting over. Plus, some of the “upgrades” already in place, such as switching from hydrogen nickel batteries to lithium cells actually reduced the potential lifespan: they switched from an extremely robust battery type with a proven lifespan of 20+ years and many tens of thousands of cycles to a type that will fail within the planned remaining life of the station.


          2. Besides, working with an entirely new station can be cheaper otherwise, since you don’t have to mind interfacing with legacy systems and deal with ways of separating from them once the work is complete.

            The only advantage is that you can use the old station as a construction shed while working with the new one, but with new heavy lift capabilities, robotic remote in-orbit assembly, and things like blow-up modules that provide a large living volume with a single launch, the very first module they send up there can already be livable enough to work as a base.

            I once saw a family build themselves a new house by constructing the walls around their old one and then tearing it down from the inside out while they were still living there. You can imagine the troubles they went through.

          3. I think you are vastly underestimating the challenges of putting together a useable shell with all the ancillaries required to support a crew in space.

            Its not just a question of volume – infact the popup volumes would make life support requirements harder! And really you don’t need the extra space such a system affords to assemble the more permanent stuff really – aptly demonstrated in the earliest Submarines and space programs you can pack folks into small spaces for their rest period and hot bunk, its not ideal for them of course but it works more than well enough to get the job done…

            Not saying the pop up in space tech is not cool and potentially useful but more volume in the initial setup of a spacestation really isn’t helpful, what the tech will be good for is allowing you push an ‘assemble in space’ large module and alot of the interior/exterior fittings for it inside one smaller rocket fairing making the launch cheaper/possible – but as such a method would then require assembly in space you do need a space shuttle or space station for the builders, impressive as robots have gotten at some very specific tasks they are a massive distance from being able to replace an astronaut at the construction site…

            You also don’t have to really interface with legacy systems at all if you don’t want to, no need for extra costs there, but with how conservative space agency tend to be the ‘legacy system’ is probably directly compatible if not functionally identical to the new one anyway – they don’t change what is working well in any kind of hurry…

            The type of battery really isn’t a big deal – like the newly rolled out solar panels and all the rest of the functional hardware its not expected to last forever, and can be replaced or augmented with additional capacity when required. Also the lithium cells do have advantages that made them, at least in the opinion of the much more expert Space Engineers, a good choice for the job (I suspect the key ones are the power density and current capacity), and had already proven they worked well in ISS’s environment as the portable computers on the station have always been lithium chemistry as far as I’m aware.

          4. >I think you are vastly underestimating the challenges of putting together a useable shell with all the ancillaries required to support a crew in space.

            Well, all the more reason to it – that’s more research and development. Make it easier.

          5. >Well, all the more reason to it – that’s more research and development. Make it easier.

            Seriously Dude not only is that what we are learning from the ISS it is a daft reasoning – you do research and development as cheaply and safely as possible! You don’t go cutting your arm off just to see if your method of attaching nerves to electronics actually works properly – you save that sort of thing for smaller scale test or as a trial fix for those people it has become needed for by accident, and then after some successful trials maybe just maybe you jump at doing it for other reasons…

          6. >You don’t go cutting your arm off

            That is much exaggerated in the context of building a new space station. I already explained how it is not necessarily cheaper (or safer for that matter) to keep on adding to an obsolete and worn-out station which needs to be discarded soon anyways.

    5. “There is also the question whether the ISS is really needed much longer.”

      Hi! 🙂 No, I don’t think so, that’s no question: The ISS is both an overwhelming symbol and an inspiration, at least. It’s like a bit of Star Trek coming true. That alone is much more worth than scientific data gained, I think. It gives hope and let people dream and aim for the stars. Especially in times of pain and despair, the ISS is needed more than ever. Before the ISS, the MIR was built in cold war, even, and became a symbol of peace and hope. If you think that I’m just a naive and sentimental fool, consider this: Philosophy is the mother of science. Without curiosity and ambitions, science would never had come so far.

      The ISS and MIR proved that in space, there are no nations, there are just people and one humanity. No matter what people or authorities say on earth, these astronauts work together as one. They are professionals, dreamed their whole life of becoming astronauts/cosmonaut and saw all the beauty of earth and the the catastrophes that happens below them. Some could say they were enlighted in a way we on earth never will be. The last they wish for is destruction and death. They surely won’t betray their ideals. I’m sure, in case of emergency, they will evacuate the ISS with no man being left behind.

      And in an ideal world, nations of the world would recognize this and contribute money to send ISS after its end of life to a mostly safe spot in graveyard orbit – as an eternal symbol of peace. A symbol of what humanity was capable of after making peace after two horrible world wars.

      Amd Even if ISS gets destroyed up there at some point, humankind did at least try to preserve. The good will alone will be something future generations will acknowledge. Just like our previous ambitions to at least try to save this planet, despite the poor results. That alone is priceless.

      1. >If you think that I’m just a naive and sentimental fool, consider this

        I think the difference between hope and dreams versus a hundred billion dollars extra cost for not a whole lot of practical gains is what decides the point – when it comes to actually funding it.

        1. Except it wouldn’t be a hundred billion dollars extra cost, as you have already agreed a LEO platform is very useful and the cost of replacing the ISS with something entirely new will be almost certainly way way more just to get the existing level of ISS functionality than keeping it…

          Sure parts of it are getting old and it will need replacements and upgrades, but large parts of it are damn nearly new and in perfectly good order – no point or cost benefit in throwing away a great many rocket launch worth of functional equipment on the existing ISS, each launch even at SpaceX’s rather low falcon 9 launch price are stupendously expensive… A falcon 9 launches something like 10 to 20t to that sort of altitude and has limited payload size, the ISS is already the ISS is approaching 500t now – and its not even close to be all wasted mass… So at 60 odd million a launch plus the cost of the payload, which will be considerable, that is a huge cost just to get back anything close to the existing ISS…

          Maybe when Starship actually flies, and functions as intended so it can loft those really giant and really heavy core loads to flesh out the start of a new station in only one or two launch the existing ISS will be surplus to requirement, but even on that day its likely to have several decades of life as I really can’t imagine there being enough Starships built to have the launch capacity, at least not to build the replacement quickly on top of all the other uses they are expected to be put through, and the inevitably higher launch costs on those early ones while its coming out of the prototype phase… Where resupply and gradual expansion on predominately cheaper smaller launch platforms like the Falcon 9 will probably end up getting even cheaper over that time – they have already flown many boosters very close to or now over the double diget number of launches with pretty quick turnaround, the bugs have already been largely worked out…

          1. > as you have already agreed a LEO platform is very useful

            I never said that. The station itself is not useful, it’s what you actually can and do with it. The ISS is quickly becoming obsolete junk, and like an old car, the maintenance bills will eventually exceed the cost of building another – so why not start now before they do?

          2. >Old car


            Something like the ISS is vastly different from any old car, there is not and has not been anything else all that close to it in capability and there is no need for really mass produced replacements to make a new one cheap*, it is not at all comparable to a common car… And even if you tried to compare it the cost of a new one will always vastly exceed adding to the existing one while all the work is done down our deep gravity well, and in having to ship it out of the atmosphere you end up with design constraint that mean you are not really able to build anything much different to the ISS anyway! Once you put some industrial construction capacity in space and can make most of your station from metals in the asteroids maybe it can become cheaper – as you only need a little nudge and some patience to move giant and/or heavy things in space…

            Heck there is a reason something as comparatively cheap as a ships hull gets refitted again and again over its life, and generally will only be retired once the outer hull is worn or damaged beyond economical repair (or it sinks), and that is because despite it being relatively cheap it is still stupendously expensive to make a new one for no good reason. A ship is orders of magnitude cheaper than something like the ISS, and actually much harder to do a complete refit on as the ISS is entirely modular – can throw away and replace whole chunks whenever it becomes required, with a ship you have to cut chunks out of it to get at its working innards…

            *until we actually start having far better travel times inside our solar system the need for space stations that can be manned right now and in the remotely nearby future stands at maybe as many as 6 – a few over Mars and Earth and maybe one out near the asteroid belt acting as a base for prospecting (presumably on a similar orbit to Mars but out of phase) – that is deep in the custom work one off territory, not even close to the volume needed to start making mass produced ones, and as they are likely to have very different operational priorities its even more in the one off category…

          3. >vastly different from any old car

            Don’t over-extend the analogy. I was talking about the principle of it. Problems accumulate that need special solutions and the marginal cost is going up until you’re essentially re-building the old station as it were even though you didn’t want a new old station but a new new station.

            Keeping the old station going AND the new station joined at the hip requires you to keep up maintenance for both versions concurrently, which means duplication of effort. No matter how you look at it, the sooner you get rid of the legacy system, the cheaper it is.

          4. Dude the whole damn thing is modular, you can have an entirely ‘new’ station in any time scale you like and just dump the older bits when they are not useful enough anymore – but its vastly cheaper and easier to add new bits to upgrade/update elements of the station than it is to launch a whole new one of remotely similar capacity… And that won’t change anytime soon, even if starship had already proven itself as reusable as the falcon 9 block 5 just the plain and simple fuel cost to throw huge masses into space will always be stupendous.

            Like the old joke about the executioner’s axe, it is the same one that was used on or on behalf of whichever important historical figure, but since then we have changed the head 3 times and handle 7, just never both at once, so its still the same axe…

          5. >you can have an entirely ‘new’ station in any time scale you like

            That would imply the new station parts are self-sufficient from the get-go, so why then do you need to attach the two systems at all? Just skip all the legacy stuff – that avoids so many problems in the future.

            Otherwise it’s like trying to upgrade an old Amiga computer with add-on boards that actually only use the existing computer as a simple backplane to route signals and power. All the engineering to make the new parts fit the old parts is wasted effort and introduces bad design compromises and complications that later have to be designed out, which is yet more cost and effort.

          6. >That would imply the new station parts are self-sufficient from the get-go,

            It implies nothing of the sort Dude, infact it implies the exact opposite – modular allows each part to be entirely hopeless on its own but interchangeable and/or integrateable into the functional whole, to take your computing analogy your RAM isn’t a computer, can’t do jack on its own, but you can attach it to CPU and suddenly its useful, when it isn’t you can toss it and put a new RAM module in…

            The whole point is that the new station sections only need to do their own functions (whatever they are), as you already have a platform that can do everything else, you DO NOT need that new station section to have all the power, all the lifesupport, all the computing power, the reaction control wheels, thruster – any and all of that can be offloaded largely if not entirely onto the existing station parts. And as the connections between the sections will be the same connection already in use, at least for quite some time as its already proven its endurance and functionality, so there really isn’t a need to create a whole new standard of interface any time soon, as the old stuff is good for the job still, and PROVEN! In much the same way to go back to your computer analogy the ATX power supply hasn’t much changed in its entire life, a few revisions, with production units gradually more focused on SATA power over Molex and not much else, at least until recently with small form factors creating a larger demand for some greater form factor tweaks, and even then its little more than revising, to the point the changes are so gradual and cross compatible as to be largely irrelevant. Maybe 12VO ATX will become a real widespread thing eventually, but even that isn’t all that great a departure from old ATX standards…

            As to create a properly functional station of any scale without modular construction you MUST have launch capacity of mindbogglingly stupendous volume and mass – which just flat out does not, has not, and quite likely will not exist in our lifetime. Quite possibly will never ever exist at all – such high gravity and thick atmosphere make big launches stupidly energy intensive, which is something no amount of fancy expand in space modules and better material science can really fix, and if safe for atmosphere high thrust engines with mystic level efficiency so they don’t need ton after ton of fuel, just to haul their own fuel around never mind the payload ever come to be, I still doubt such a launch vehicle will get made – its still so much easier to launch small high tech complex bits that need fancy high tech industrial facilities from the ground and build the bulky but simple stuff in space.

            So you build the damn thing modular as the ISS is, in which case you only need large launch volumes and mass to actually be able to create something functional, and no one launch needs to create a standalone working system… Which means 10 years down the line if a module isn’t any good anymore it can just be discarded and a new part fitted, and some 50 years later there might well be nothing left of the original core modules, all new modules fitting with different hardware the only evidence of the original parts being one or two legacy spec attachment points on the older transitional sections – in the same way I’ve yet to come across a power supply that doesn’t ship with support for floppy drives…

  5. I’m sorry but it is effectively in the dictionary, and is an old word (First found the early 17th century, somewhat popular in the 18th) whose popularity shot up again extremely fast in the 70’s.
    Hopefully those gents shall starteth using the correct version of english

  6. Please don’t buy all this Rogozin’s sheet. He’s stupid clown and troll. Currently, in Russia, from high-level managers it’s required political loyality, not competence.

    1. I thought it quite telling that the latest batch of cosmonauts showed up in yellow suits with blue trim, Ukraine’s colors. Of course no one can say it was for Ukraine, but I’m sure that several people got in trouble for that…

  7. You’re perhaps too young to know, but the words “man” and “mankind” were also used in the past, before the gender wars. I’m speaking under correction, but I think the word “humanity” would have looked very awkward, too, to a lot of news readers of the 1960s, perhaps. “human” (hu+man) rather was a zoological term at the time, to distinguish “man” from the great apes. Humankind is a successor to mankind. It also does give justice to both man and wo”man”, because it’s more than just man.

    1. From the wiki article you linked: “ Should it become necessary to complete and launch ICM, it was estimated that it would take between two and two-and-a-half years to do so.”

      Ready to go my ass.

  8. > «In a recent statement (in Russian, which I admittedly do not speak), Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin threatened to abandon American astronaut Mark Vande Hei on the station and detach the Russian modules to punish the US for newly-imposed sanctions.»

    Linked video is old (there’se even «day 3 [since beginning of invasion]» label seen in lower-left corner), really mild in tone and contains no actual treats. Station dismantle video indeed was posted by roskosmos, but plainly marked as a «joke», not as an official statement or any kind of serious attempt at simulation. And all of those fakes were already disproven by ArsTechinca:

    Funny thing — on attached screenshot «Kelly calling Rogozin out for deleting his threatening Tweet» it can be noticed, that Kelly has his language in Twitter set to Ukrainian. Moreover, since the beginning of invasion, he tweets non-stop, reposting Unkrainians, and Russian liberal anti-Putin opposition. Demonstrating a native-speaker fluency in Russian. Which really contrasts to his previous history of short and rare tweets, all in English.

    Either guy has REALLY too much time on his hands, or (my bet) — account @StationCDRKelly is now operated by Ukrainian «troll-farm».

    1. Kelly wrote a book about his time on ISS- with all the training in Russia and basically living in Russian speaking box in the sky for a year at a time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was very close to native speaker level of language proficiency. And at least according to the book his girlfriend (now wife?) is/was the social media director for nasa or something like that. I’m sure he is very capable of leveraging social media.

  9. > In a recent statement (in Russian, which I admittedly do not speak), Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin threatened to abandon American astronaut Mark Vande Hei on the station and detach the Russian modules to punish the US for newly-imposed sanctions.

    Please HaD dont fall on fake news and propaganda, I don’t speak Russian too, but youtube offers subs on that interview and Rogozin never say anything about abandon any non Russian astronaut, also the origin about abandon Mark Vande Hei is on RIA novosty and not from Roscosmos.

    >Thankfully, Roscosmos recanted their threat before the cosmonauts tour out the third seat in their capsule, and promised to return Vande Hei back to Earth — but the threat of splitting up the station still lingers.

    You can’t say that, because Roscosmos didn’t say that in first place, proof of that is the absence of any link to verify that.

    >Roscosmos even made a rather unhinged video which shows the modules detaching and floating away. It’s not immediately clear whether the Russian section would be decommissioned and deorbited, or whether Roscosmos would somehow be able to turn the Russian section into its own independent station.

    Again this was made from RIA Novosty not from Roscosmos, you can see RIA Novosty Logo on the video…

    Guys invations are bad, but censor one side and allow lies from another is bad too, also send weapons and call it “help” is bad, have a goverment that has made invation to another country and that goverment condemn the invations made for other country is worse.

  10. Here’s what we need to remember: the Russian people (especially scientists) are not the same as their terrible government. 99% of people in the world don’t keep up with everything going on in the rest ofworld. They’re ignorant, and sometimes dumb. That doesn’t make them bad. There are millions of Russians who are against what their government is doing just as I’ve been against most of the US government’s foreign policy since I gained my own personal opinion and sense of right and wrong. Punish those who deserve it, and remember the rest are just like everyone else.

  11. From NASA’s Office of Inspector General in 2021:

    “With an annual operating cost of approximately $3 billion, NASA’s outpost in low Earth orbit consumes about one third of its annual human space flight budget. While current plans call for the Station’s retirement in 2024, an extension of ISS operations to 2030 is likely. In the long term, NASA has committed to replacing the Station with one
    or more commercially owned and operated space destinations.”

    $3 billion would buy a mega-mission to Mars like another Curiosity or Perseverance rover or many smaller missions to the planets. And for a very long time there is not going to be commercial operation of a space station (and certainly not the ISS) for anything other than billionaire vacation trips. Don’t mention the Starship claim. Since it reminds me of the Soviet N1, I suspect it will be a very long time before it is man-rated if ever.

    I once heard a planetary mission scientist say that a great way to determine the scientific value of a space mission is to count the number of science papers written about it. He said that his mission had, in its short lifespan, already produced many more papers than the ISS over its already considerable lifespan at that point.

    The ISS is a HORRENDOUS waste of limited space funds. Let the Chinese waste their money on Spam in a Can in Earth orbit for propaganda purposes.

    1. Number of papers is a useless metric, if that research can be done on another platform or in another way maybe it should be, but when the environment needed to do the research is expensive and nearly impossible to replicate which is the case for things like the LHC, the ISS, the Tockomak fusion experiments the only question is if that research is potentially worthwhile.

      After all its possible to write many thousands of papers on pure math, history, the data collected already by SETI, Hubble etc but the value of of those papers could be damn nearly zip, just because it was cheap to write them doesn’t make them good or useful (though they might be).

      In fact you often end up with vastly more papers when the science is shoddy and/or full of holes – which is what you get with a great many space related studies, there is just too much data you can’t get from a photo and perhaps a few other data points, so you have to assume and/or infer which means far more plausible theories that fit the little data that exists can and will be created as we try to understand the entire universe from the head of pin… If every experiment on the ISS creates but one or two papers that is actually a good thing as it indicates those experiments were sufficiently controlled and have enough real data to come to a definitive conclusion, so nobody writes paper 4 about this alternative possibility, which perhaps sparks paper 5 and eventually a new experiment to prove which one is correct)

      Which makes the only question are low/zero gravity space experiments valuable and is the basic nature of such an enduring structure in space of value, to which I would have to answer yes – there is no way to learn about long term construction requirements for space or any of the material and biological science that can’t be done down our gravity well without it, and any of that research could prove massively beneficial to humanity as a whole.

      Another rover on Mars sounds great but ultimately you would need a vast vast number of them and follow up missions to bring the samples back to a lab for study or to take a real lab to Mars (which almost certainly means a manned mission) for it to achieve much more than the existing pretty pictures from the recent satellite, which wouldn’t even be remotely possible for the same budget as maintaining the ISS…


        “”When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”.”

        On the other hand, if you keep rejecting all the metrics that say the ISS is not very useful, to the point that you no longer have any quantifiable metrics to show its worth, you’re essentially admitting that you can’t really see what use there is to have it.

        Arguing that there is still some use despite not being able to show what falls victim to the “crocodile whistle” fallacy: the proof of the effectiveness of blowing the crocodile whistle is that there are no crocodiles around. One then refuses to stop blowing the whistle because presumably crocodiles would appear.

        1. But we do have perfectly good metrics that say the ISS is useful – research and understanding that could not be produced in any other way.

          In the same way the LHC or fusion reactor experiments that are stupidly expensive to build and of no obviously immediate use have value – its knowledge you can’t get any other way, and foundational we hope to a much greater understanding that might just lead to ‘magic’ future technologies – you can’t know what the payout will be with any of them before hand, might find out you built them entirely on an incorrect assumption and they do nothing at all, the only thing that is certain is not doing them means you won’t ever find out if there is anything worth the price find…

          Which in my view is a stupid approach to take anyway, when the only price is that largely imaginary money stuff, as better understanding of everything is always good, even if it doesn’t seem profitable right now…

          1. >But we do have perfectly good metrics that say the ISS is useful – research and understanding that could not be produced in any other way.

            And how do you quantify that? By the amount of research output, which you asserted is a useless metric…

          2. Amount of papers produced stand alone is not relevant, at all – quality of research and any other method to get that research done is the important relevant factor to deciding if its worth it – so if you must break it down to numbers its number of good quality and rare research opportunity it creates for its cost vs the cost of doing that same research any other way – and as in most cases it isn’t even remotely possible to do it any other way than build a new station first to create the environment you can do the research – that makes the ISS cheap, at least for doing those tasks.

            All the research done on something obvious like the long term endurance space flights for instance – yes nobody has stayed in space for all that much over a year, yet, but the research done categorically has improved the understanding of what the body goes through by having more than one sample, and tested how to deal with it somewhat, along with improving quality of life while in space dramatically.

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