Lesson of the Day: ‘How the Space Station Became a Base to Launch Humanity’s Future’

Lesson of the Day: ‘How the Space Station Became a Base to Launch Humanity’s Future’

The New York Times-Science·2020-11-06 22:00

5. Mr. Chang writes that the space station has turned into the linchpin for spurring capitalism in space. What evidence does he provide to support that claim?6. What is the future of the International Space Station? What will happen when it is retired? What role will private companies play?7. The article concludes with the reflections of Michael T. Suffredini, who served as NASAs space station program manager for a decade, from 2005 to 2015:Mr. Suffredini said the current trajectory of life in orbit followed the path of previous exploration of new territories. In any government exploration in the history of mankind, you send out a few people that are government funded to go do a relatively risky thing, just to see whats there, he said.If theres anything of value, the pioneers follow and eventually the settlers. In order to establish low-Earth orbit, Mr. Suffredini said, we need to get to the pioneering stage, which is what were really doing.What does Mr. Suffredini mean by pioneers and settlers? How do you think the experiences at the International Space Station will help the future of space exploration and colonization? What do you think is the legacy of the I.S.S.?Option 1: Share Your Thoughts.Whats your reaction to the article? What was the most fascinating, intriguing or surprising thing you read? Does it make you more excited about the International Space Station or space travel and exploration in general?In a 2018 Opinion essay, Dont Give Up on the International Space Station, Mark Kelly, a former astronaut who has lived on the space station and the twin brother of Scott Kelly, writes:It was the United States that led the international coalition of 16 nations to build the space station. Constructing this outpost in outer space took dozens of missions spanning well over a decade to complete, and considerable money. It is clearly one of the more complicated engineering projects humans have undertaken.Its not perfect and its not designed to last forever, but what the International Space Station offers humans and nations is remarkable: an important opportunity to collaborate on shared scientific goals, mostly free from politics and almost entirely free from the influences of our planet But all of this will come to a screeching halt (though you wont hear the screech in the vacuum of space) if the Trump administration ends funding for the International Space Station program beyond 2024, a step it is considering. The reasons are unclear, though President Trump has said that he wants to prioritize human travel to the moon.Whatever the priorities, this sort of trade-off is shortsighted. Cutting funding for the station, now between $3 billion and $4 billion a year, would be a step backward for the space agency and certainly not in the best interest of the country.Should the United States government continue to fund the International Space Station? Or is it better to have private companies build and maintain this and new ones? What is the benefit of the International Space Station to humanity and our future?Would you want to visit or spend time on the International Space Station? What do you think you would enjoy most? What do you think would be the hardest part of living there?Make some predictions: Do you think ordinary people (those who are not astronauts) will be living on space stations like the International Space Station in the next 20 years? Do you think you will ever live in outer space in your lifetime?Option 2: Write a Letter Home From Aboard the International Space Station!Imagine you live on the International Space Station: Write a letter home telling friends and loved ones about your life aboard an outpost 250 miles above the earth.Describe your daily life and routines, such as sleeping, eating and exercising as you float weightlessly in a microgravity environment, the challenges you face, as well the discoveries, joys and beauty you are seeing and experiencing.For help with your letter, you might start by taking a visual tour of the International Space Station in the Times photo essay Home Sweet Home in Orbit. Or, peruse the collection of reflections and thoughts by Times science writers to mark the anniversary in The International Space Station: 20 Years of Promise, Peril and Fun. You might also visit the NASA website for more details on the space station and its missions.

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