The international space station is the most expensive structure built by humans — and in just six years, it may not be: it will fall into the Pacific ocean. The BBC found the man who tries to save her. Make a list of the most experienced astronauts in the world, and astrophysicist Michael Foale will be in the forefront. Six missions of the British NASA astronaut has spent in space more than a year. Foale has flown on the Shuttle and Soyuz, living in the space station “Mir” and commanded the International space station. He made four spacewalks of the space, spending more than 23 hours in open space in Russian and American spacesuits. They included an epic eight-hour walk for the modernization of the computer on the Hubble space telescope.
“I am very, very, very, very lucky,” he laughs. “Most astronauts jealous of me, so I’m probably more in space not visited”.
Foale was aboard “the World” in June 1997, when the station crashed nobody managed to “Progress” and face the solar panel and broke the skin. On hearing the alarm, announce the loss of air, power and rotation of the station, Foale worked with two Russian colleagues to prepare a capsule “Soyuz” and to cover the damaged module.
Hold your thumb in the station window and studying the motion of stars, Poul used my skills from physics to estimate the speed of rotation of the station to MCC could activate the engines and regain control of the station.
Thinking fast, the crew not only saved “the World”, but also guaranteed the continuation of the mission. In the next few weeks Poul worked together with colleagues, restoring the station to its power and control, as well as clocks were washing the condensate from the interior walls.
“I didn’t feel our life is threatened, more than ten seconds during a collision,” says Foley. “I just felt that I was always able to save us, and this feeling told me that no need to panic, no need to be afraid”.
“This mission was one of the best,” he says. “I had so many opportunities to present solutions to problems, but usually don’t get a simple Manager for NASA”.
20 years have passed, and the foal, after rescuing one station, wants to save another: ISS.
For the first time Richard Hollingham with BBC met Poul at the Baikonur cosmodrome in November 1998, shortly after the launch of the first stage of the ISS module “Zarya”. He represented NASA astronauts who had to defend the project. At that point he went beyond the allotted budget, behind schedule and drowning in political debate.
The ISS is a joint venture of USA, Russia, European space Agency, Japan and Canada — provides a work place for people with 2000. During this time, the project cost has grown to an impressive $ 100 billion.
Station proved that man can live and work in space for a long time and conduct valuable scientific experiments in orbit. It also showed that countries that can not find a common language on earth — like the U.S. and Russia work well together in the sky.
“In this cooperation, the strengthening of the partnership lies the value of a project like the ISS,” said Foale, who flew there on their own in 2003, is one of two astronauts from the international Commission that oversees policy and operations of the ISS.
But the days of the station were numbered. The funding of various space agencies involved in the project specified only up to 2024. This means that in just six years, the most expensive structure in the history will go to feed the fish in the Pacific ocean.
The countdown has begun.
“From year to year Russia sends fuel to fill the tanks of the service module of the ISS to the space station could be reduced from orbit,” says Foley. “That is the current plan — and I think that’s a bad plan, a huge waste of a fantastic resource.”
But national priorities change, and money will no longer be. With the approaching 50th anniversary (in July 2019) the first manned landing on the moon, Donald trump decided to entrust NASA back to the moon. The plan envisages the construction of a space station or “lunar gateway” on the orbit of the moon, and then the construction of the base on the surface. This ambitious project is supported by the Johann-Dietrich wörner, head of the ESA, and Roscosmos. China’s own plans for the moon.
Although none of the proposals was not fully appreciated, it seems unlikely that the space Agency will be able to find additional funds for lunar missions in addition to its current missions. Now available to NASA of about $ 8 billion on the development of missions and $ 1.4 billion for servicing the space station, and investing in new spacecraft — the Space Launch System. And if the US government will not find additional funds to NASA, or to be reductions in other programs — both unlikely — any money for lunar exploration, and the construction of a lunar base will have to come from existing funds.
“Projects are too many, and they all compete for money,” says Foley. “NASA can’t go to the moon or Mars, while continuing to provide ISS crew, cargo, food and supplies”.
Since retiring from NASA, Foale works in the private sector of new aviation technology and believes that commercial operators can intervene to ensure the future of the ISS. “I hope that the commercial environment will be able to submit a business plan that will allow you to keep the ISS in space without letting it drown in the Pacific ocean,” he says. “You have to come up with innovative ways to keep her in space.”
ISS already supports some commercial operations. A private company NanoRacks, conducting experiments with the equipment at the station for private clients. The station also increasingly used to launch small satellites into orbit, which are transported on a commercial spacecraft like SpaceX’s Dragon. The Russian space Agency provides an opportunity for tourists to visit the station, and even planning to build a hotel unit.
Although much of the space business is still directly or indirectly supported by governments and taxpayers, the real privatization of space begins. Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has recently carried out a successful test of its new missile. And space company Virgin Galactic suborbital dreams launches its Spaceship 2.
Meanwhile, the foal develops its own campaign to save the ISS and says it plans to launch web sites to support their efforts. He says that we need to continue to put pressure on the space Agency to Finance the program and beyond.
“Every engineer, Manager, astronaut, or an astronaut working on the ISS, he said it was such a great achievement of humanity that her work simply can not be stopped,” he says. However, unlike the private sector, the Poul fears that in 2024, the space Agency — and the politicians who Fund them — will destroy the greatest creation of mankind, along with the investments of millions of people from around the world.
“My hopes were dashed a thousand times,” says Foley. “I thought we’ll be on the moon by the time I’m 35, and Mars — when 45, but I was naive.”