Russia considering unmanned space station: official

Aug 31, 2011
A Russian Soyuz rocket stands on the launch pad at the Baikonour cosmodrome on August 24. Russia's space agency Roskosmos is considering ending a permanent human presence in space, an agency official said following last week's crash of a supply ship delivering precious cargo to the ISS.

Russia's space agency Roskosmos is considering ending a permanent human presence in space, an agency official said Wednesday following last week's crash of a supply ship delivering precious cargo to the ISS.

"Perhaps in the future, we will not need a constant manned presence in the lower ," Roskosmos deputy director Vitaly Davydov told journalists in Moscow.

"We don't exclude the possibility of returning to the concept of DOS (long-term orbital) stations that we had before stations with constant human presence," he said.

Soviet-era space station designs, which included the early Salyut station series, were not meant to constantly house cosmonauts but instead served as a base for incoming missions.

Davydov's remarks came days after a failed launch left the without a planned delivery of 2.9 tonnes of food, water, and fuel and delayed the next manned launch by at least a month.

Russia's space officials have for the first time warned that the current crew aboard the ISS could be evacuated, leaving the station, whose cost has been estimated at $100 billion, unmanned.

Such prospects have alarmed NASA as "there is a bigger risk of losing the ISS if there are no on board," according to the agency's chief Mike Suffredini.

Davydov denied that an unmanned ISS faces any threat. He confirmed however that the next planned landing of three cosmonauts currently at the ISS will happen a week later than planned, on September 16.

He did not provide any details on the delay of the next launch, which was originally scheduled for September 22, referring to an ongoing investigation into the causes of the launch failure.

chief Vladimir Popovkin said in a recent interview that he regretted Russia having put so much emphasis on , rather than looking into more financially rewarding spheres like telecommunications.

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User comments : 12

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omatumr
3.1 / 5 (10) Aug 31, 2011
Thanks for this story, although it finally confirms a destination for human exploration of space that was probably decided in 1971.

What a sad, sad day for science and the spirit of discovery.

With deep regret,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for NASA
Husky
4 / 5 (2) Aug 31, 2011
it looks like a ploy to get more money from nasa
yyz
4.3 / 5 (3) Aug 31, 2011
It appears that the problem with the last mission stems from a failed 3rd stage engine, as reported by at least one Russian news agency: http://www.univer...re-88508

The upper stage used for these missions is designated the Briz-M and it has had a series of engine problems since it's introduction in 2000: http://en.wikiped...i/Briz-M

If the engine turns out to be the culprit, the time needed to repair or replace the component will determine the date of return to orbit. The Russians have announced they want to try at least 2 unmanned launches of the Soyuz stack before a manned flight, so it may be sometime next year before a manned Soyuz is sent back to the ISS.

I wonder if all this will push back the Space-X Dragon-ISS docking test, slated for early December IIRC?
Arkaleus
2.5 / 5 (6) Aug 31, 2011
I just don't feel the sadness and regret that some of us obviously do here at physorg when we finally realize that manned space missions just aren't cost effective.

There really isn't a good reason to put human bodies in space, at least not in the 1950's and 60's style. Spam in a can was always about prestige and a lack of computer power and robotic acumen.

Machines are more suited for space environments, and much more resistant to the political and psychological effects of failure and loss of life, which were the the real sources of trouble for the manned space program anyway.

Machines are smaller, cheaper, and much more expendable than human beings. This lets us do more dangerous missions more frequently, freeing us from the limits of human endurance and fragility.

There will be a time for humans to travel when there is a destination where a human presence makes sense and we can get there at much high power levels and accelerations.
LKD
1 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2011
I wonder if all this will push back the Space-X Dragon-ISS docking test, slated for early December IIRC?


I would guess the opposite, as NASA will have greater desire to have a way to send people to the ISS in case of catastrophic failure to assure the space station doesn't start affecting satellites in orbit near by.
gmurphy
not rated yet Aug 31, 2011
Certainly our destiny lies out in the stars but our technology is nowhere near as capable as it needs to be in order to seriously consider sending humans out into the abnormal environment of Space. I'm with Arkaleus on this one, send the robots first and lets get really good at it, then we can start thinking about sending a team of frail human beings across the void.
Shakescene21
1 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2011
I too agree with Arkaleus. Back in 1971 computers were huge and slow, and robots were science fiction. The 21st Century is the age of AI and robotics. Machines will be able to explore space cheaper, better, and more safely.

However, China might see this as a great opportunity to show the world that they are the greatest nation on Earth, so we still may see a lot of humans in space.
nxtr
not rated yet Aug 31, 2011
let the Chinese waste some of that cash hoard going into space to put flags on crap.
Osiris1
3 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2011
Oh well, If esteemed decadent westerners run from the destiny of mankind to spread outward, the hardworking Chinese explorer will exploit this opportunity handed them on a plate. We will then see just what the limitations of the dumb machines are. For one, space destinations are ....distant!; and decisions often have to be locally made, as Mark Rayman found out in programming Deep Space One. There WILL be times when the human presence is quite necessary. What is really needed is a nuclear booster that will provide re-usable single stage to orbit. I think the Chinese are quite capable to build it, use it, and keep it in the face of international luddites, envirocreeps, and other saboteurs of our future.....with its army if necessary! Fusion is really closer than many think, and fusion/field effect propulsion devices are closer as well. Man WILL open up our system to our use. It is our birthright, our manifest destiny!
arri_guy
5 / 5 (2) Sep 01, 2011
As usual, there are valid arguments for both human & robotic missions. I've always believed in "the right tool for the right job." Robots are expendable, but a human can accomplish in minutes what a robot MIGHT be able to do in hours. Don't forget about the 2-way comm. lag for distant missions--human presence makes a lot of that unnecessary. Like it or not, there IS competition among nations even w/no cold war. Prestige, & NOW the possibility of economic return are the drivers. We spend a pittance on space technologies compared to the trillions we throw at programs that are politically popular & expedient. Are we in or out? Will we be a leader, or become a distant also-ran who'd rather watch "desperate housewives" than study for the test in calculus, physics, or [insert computer language of your choice]. You can bet the Chinese & other hungry nations will. LET US: INVEST IN OUR FUTURE & SEND HUMANS AND ROBOTS INTO SPACE AS A SPECIES. PLEASE!
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Sep 01, 2011
There really isn't a good reason to put human bodies in space, at least not in the 1950's and 60's style. Spam in a can was always about prestige and a lack of computer power and robotic acumen.
No, although this is a typical human-hating and western-hating misconception. The necessities were largely military for having humans in orbit.

And the necessity now is to scatter humans about the solar system as a way of protecting the species from extinction. In order to do this it is necessary to gain as much experience as possible with humans in space, including the tech needed to protect them there and move them about.

Much of the tech being developed in response to global warming - solar, nuclear, water splitting, insulation, food engineering - is directly applicable to colonization, which leads one to suspect that this is a primary reason for the AGW hype.
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Sep 04, 2011
Don't worry Otto. Our space faring machine progeny will take us into space with them.

As pets.

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