The Space Station's New Role: Stunts, Not Science

Editor's note: According to Element 21 Golf Company, a golf club manufacturer, "one of the International Space Station's astronauts" is going to using a gold-plated version of one of their clubs to hit a transmitter-equipped gold ball off of the ISS and into its own orbit. [View the inspirational video].

Element 21 Golf Company's Message Is Out of This World!

"E21 golf equipment is now traveling 300 miles above Earth, and have been onboard the Space Station since September 12, 2005. At 5 miles per second, the E21 Message races through the skies above the planet's 5 continents, 300 million golfers and 6.5 billion people. To date it has already clocked over 63 million miles and will continue the memory of Alan Shepard for more and more millions of miles."

OK, it's a cute idea. Someone would eventually want to do it. Heck, we did it on the Moon. But the timing is just wrong. At a time when all of the U.S. science that was supposed to be done on the ISS (promised for decades) is being cancelled Russia is so desperate for cash that they resort to a stunt like this. What does this say for the true value of the ISS - and the money spent (and still to be spent) to build and maintain it?

Mike Griffin is a golfer (he's even played golf with Alice Cooper). I wonder what he thinks of this golf stunt. And has NASA's safety crowd had a chance to weigh in on this? We are repeatedly told that EVAs are dangerous - even when they are routine. Is it wise to be swinging a large metal object and deliberatly smacking something so as to fling it off of the station - when PV arrays, antennas and other fragile objects are close by - and to do so without ever having done so before?

Nah. Foam can't damage tiles, can it?

Perhaps there is a sad truth emerging here. Despite the lofty PR hype in the 80's and 90's - and decades of congressional testimony and pleas for ISS funding - the only thing anyone seems to want to pay to do on a crewed space station is A. send tourists to visit it; B. shoot TV commercials there; C. perform self-financed 'experiments'; and D. find new ways to throw (hit) things off of it. Meanwhile the government-financed crew works to fix things that break, make sure they are healthy, and wait for the next crew to arrive - all while they go round and round in circles.

What a waste of a multi-billion dollar space station. And now Mike Griffin wants to curtail these minimal operations even further by not flying research, hardware, and modules to house it - all of which exist and are ready to go. As such, I wonder what having 3 - and then 6 people up there is going to accomplish other than "meeting international commitments" as the current ISS assembly justification mantra goes? Better poker games and fancier TV commercials, I suppose.

Even more confusing, while NASA talks about trying to spur a truly commercial industry sector that would resupply this science-starved, stunt-focused ISS, they are developing their own government-financed cargo system in parallel at the same time so as to compete with the private sector - and diminish any true market that might emerge. Go figure.

Someone needs to decide what this ISS is supposed to be doing - and what it is not supposed to be doing once and for all - and make the hard decisions that best allow it to do whatever it is we now want it to do.

  • submit to reddit


Kepler Communications - Aether
Baen Books - The Spacetime War by Les Johnson

Join our mailing list

Commercialization: Monthly Archives

Monthly Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on February 26, 2006 10:41 AM.

NASA PAO Is Hiring Another Political Appointee was the previous entry in this blog.

Farewell, Scott Cartoon Style is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.