The solar eclipse that passed through our country on Monday captivated the nation and made paper shades stylish for a day. While millions observed the eclipse, those looking closely enough caught a glimpse of a different objectpassing across the sun. The most expensive man-made object ever created.
The International Space Station (ISS) was launched in 1998, and is considered one of the greatest achievements in manned spaceflight. According to the2014 Wastebook, the space station was “sold to taxpayers as a one of a kind, orbiting laboratory that would permit quantum leaps in our research in science, communications, in metals, and in lifesaving medicines.” Unfortunately, it has yet to live up to expectations, while its costs continue to soar. Costing $85 billion over the past two decades, the station is projected to add another $22 billion from 2016 to 2020, although some auditors say those projections are “overly optimistic.”
The space station is expensive, and although the ISS’s purpose was to increase research capabilities, GAO says “research utilization has not been a priority.” For example, one of the experiments conducted on the ISS “could eventually lead to the design and creation of better golf clubs,” examining the coating and metals used in golf products, according to thereport.
In addition, there have been elementary and high school student experiments aboard the ISS. “Fifteen student projects were launched to the space station in July as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). A project that students from California came up with is examining whether tadpole shrimp can be grown in microgravity. High school students in New York are looking at the effect of microgravity on the growth of mold on white bread. And ninth-graders in Washington focused their attention on whether radish roots and shoots will grow differently in microgravity.”
Involving students in science experiments is important for the future of science in America, but at a cost of $10 million per research hour, they should be focused more on transformative experiments in the ISS.
Space is the next frontier, and Americans have a renewed energy in what lies beyond our world. NASA should reevaluate its priorities aboard the space station so taxpayers and scientists can share in the excitement of space exploration and discovery.
Read more about space waste and the 2014 Wastebook here!