21 November 1998

How The Mighty Are Fallen

Yesterday in Kazakhstan, Russia blasted off with the first module of the planned international space station (ISS). ISS is a collaboration between US, Canada, Japan and Russia which aims to build a space station, to do something, but nobody knows what. Probably to be used as a nursing home for retired astronauts.

The launch was a rare triumph for Russian high technology, which since the breakdown of communist rule has been significant for what it has not been able to do. Viz, make meaningful repairs to Mir. Unfortunately the Russian population were only able to view half the launch on television, the other half of the transmission was shut down by bailiffs recovering money from the TV station.

What was intended as an expression of international harmony has now turned into a nightmare for NASA officials. Even with massive injections of US money Russia is unwilling and generally unable to come up with the goods - it's impoverished space community aims to spend all it's resources on attempting to patch up Mir, or at best trying to coordinate the orbits of Mir and ISS so valuable scientific equipment can be transferred between the two.

The projected cost of the ISS program is $100 billion. Why?