A decade ago, two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut became the first humans to move into the International Space Station. For four and a half months, the station was their home. Their time there was known as Expedition 1, and was the first of the 25 expeditions that there have been up until now. The International Space Station, or ISS, has been continuously inhabited since that first expedition on November 2nd, 2000, and has recently broken the record for the longest uninterrupted human presence in space. (The previous record had been held by the Russian space station, Mir, with an impressive 3,644 days.)
Not only that, the International Space Station just travelled its 1.5 billionth mile at the start of November.
Yet despite its huge achievements in the name of human ingenuity, many would argue the space station has been a waste of money, resources and time.
Originally designed to host a huge range of scientific experiments, gradually as the years have dragged on, the research has had to be scaled back, allowing for the budget to cover the amount needed just to complete the construction of the ISS.
At present, £62billion has been spent on the project – making it the most expensive object ever built.
Considering, the Large Hadron Collider only cost £6billion, the space station has been a tad pricey.
Unfortunately, the scale of the ISS project has ultimately been its downfall. After ten years of habitation, over twelve years of construction (with another one at least still needed), the ISS has been begrudgingly dragged into the 21st Century. It stands as a relic of a time gone past, when money was no obstacle, and bigger really did mean better.
Today, in an age of global recession, the ISS represents the hangover from the good-time years. A time when an international space station sounded like a reasonable idea.
It can’t be argued that the research that has been carried out on the ISS hasn’t been invaluable. After all, the ISS offers unique conditions for all different types of research from across the scientific world. But, ultimately, the majority of this research could have been conducted on a station of a slightly smaller scale.
The International Space Station represents the greediness of science. The urge we all feel to bite off just a little bit more then we’re able to chew. The vision for the ISS 15 years ago was far greater then the reality today. Over-ambition sufficiently destroyed the schedule and budget forcing a re-think for the station’s role in space.