Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

Russian company proposes new Russian space station post-ISS

Energia, the division in Roscosmos that manages the Russian manned program, including its share of ISS, has proposed that Russia build its own space station after 2025, and the reasons it gives strongly suggest they are worried about the condition of their 20-year-old and leaking Zvezda module.

The International Space Station’s systems are likely to keep breaking down after 2025, Energia company, which manages the Russian module, said and suggested building a national station instead. “Russia has commitments regarding the ISS through 2025. Several elements are already seriously damaged and about to stop functioning. Many of them are impossible to replace. After 2025, we expect many ISS elements to start breaking down en masse,” the deputy director-general of Energia, Vladimir Soloviev, said at a meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences. [emphasis mine]

They don’t mention Zvezda by name, but the highlighted words point to it. Assuming the persistent leaks in the module are related to stress damage and age, this statement is recognizing publicly that replacing Zvezda is very difficult, or impossible, and that it is on the verge of complete failure.

Whether Russia has the money or resources to get another station built soon after 2025 is questionable, however. If they do decide to go it alone, I doubt they could launch a replacement before 2030, at the earliest, and likely much later than that.

If they do end the partnership with the U.S., it is unclear what happens to ISS. If the Russians choose to undock their portion of the station it will leave ISS somewhat crippled. It has been my impression that without all of the environmental systems in the Russian half, ISS cannot function. This might no longer be true, and will likely not be true with the planned arrival of Axiom’s private modules by the mid-20s. Timing however of all this remains critical.


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  • David K

    Any new space station now needs to rotate to generate artificial gravity, or there is no point. We now have decades of research to now prove that living in zero gravity is bad. Earth gravity is good. Partial gravity needs to be tested.

  • mpthompson

    I agree with David K. Time for a more aggressive space presence than what the ISS can provide. Before seeing SpaceX progress with the Starship, I would have thought it would have been ludicrous to abandon ISS. However, it is likely that by 2025 the expense of launching a new more capable, and larger space station than the ISS will be just a fraction of what it was during the Shuttle era.

    Demphasize learning about how sensitive humans are to zero-g and shift to learning how to create orbital environments and infrastructure that are suitable for long term habitation by humans. Take the first real steps towards becoming a spacefaring civilization.

  • Dick Eagleson

    I don’t doubt the Russians are sincerely worried about the state of their segment of ISS. They should be.

    But the rest of the story looks like a trial balloon by Energia aimed at trying to get something large from their organizational wish list. That isn’t going to happen. Russia has barely enough money to maintain its current reduced presence on ISS. Building a new station is a complete pipe dream. Russia is too poor to afford such an effort now and will be still poorer by 2025.

  • Edward

    From the article:

    “We have to review the timeline of our future participation in the program and focus on implementing the programme for [national] orbital stations”, Soloviev said.

    Add that to the quote that Robert included, and it is no wonder that some media had misinterpreted things:

    “There is no discussion of the International Space Station stopping work after 2025 or of [Russia] ending its partnerships. The report at the meeting of the council of the Academy of Science was theoretical in nature and was not a proposal on the further development of the ISS. So it was misinterpreted by some media”, Soloviev said

    If they have to “review the timeline of future participation” and expect many irreplaceable “ISS elements to start breaking down en masse” just after their “commitments regarding the ISS” expire, then who can blame anyone for thinking that they are seriously considering leaving the ISS project in 2025?

    For years the Russians have been making noises about disconnecting their modules from the ISS in order to use them to create their own national space station. The new information here suggests that we can expect them to change their thinking so that they abandon their failing hardware in place and start their new space station from scratch.

    I think Dick Eagleson is right. They are trying to get scarce funding for an expensive project.

    Reviewing the past three decades in my head, it seems to me that Vladimir Putin attempted to rescue Russia’s once-great space program but discovered that he needed American money to do it. In the 1990s, NASA sent boatloads of money Russia’s way, but when Dan Goldin discovered they were spending too little of it on the ISS modules it was intended to be used for, he told them if they didn’t start spending the money on the proper modules, then Russia would be demoted from partner to contractor. (Hmm. I wonder what we would now be thinking of Russian workmanship had they been demoted.) I remember my aerospace colleagues and I cheered at Goldin’s bold international relations.

    Russia seemed to get through the 2000s by selling launch services to geostationary orbit to commercial communication companies. The 2010s seem to have been funded by ferrying NASA’s astronauts to ISS. This decade they don’t have much in the way of prospects for revenue from space services, since the commercial companies are using SpaceX rather than Russia. Chronic quality problems are not helping Russia, either for revenue or for its own purposes.

    I see a different future option for Russia. America is turning toward commercial space for solutions to (previously) expensive problems, and commercial space stations are proposed for eventually replacing the ISS. Not only could NASA rent, lease, or hire space on private commercial space stations, but Russia could do so too. The downside is a possible loss of national prestige. U.S. companies leasing space to Russia is very different than Russian companies leasing space to NASA. The nation whose company is doing the leasing holds the more prestigious position (such as the U.S. buying seats on the Russian Soyuz).

    Another advantage to commercialization of space is that it is far more likely that space projects will have more benefits for mankind, because those projects that do not will have a harder time paying for themselves or surviving. This fits better with the Outer Space Treaty, too. As Bridenstine once noted, there is more venture capital money available for commercial space than Congressional money available for NASA space. In addition, we can be sure that venture capital money will be more wisely spent, where usefulness to mankind is concerned.

  • pzatchok

    Its time to build the wheel.

  • David K

    In response to pzatchok, if by “build the wheel”, you mean a hub and spoke rotating habitat, I completely agree. Probably in eleo due to extra radiation shielding but could be next to the iss if you want.

    I think this is something that a Biden administration might actually accomplish (or at least get started) that would differ from the previous administration’s Artemis program (though I would suggest doing both).

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