Year-long mission to International Space Station planned; Is anyone asking why?

The partners of the International Space Station say they could begin a year-long mission in March, 2015, according to a report by the Russian space agency. If the first flight goes well, The Moscow Times reports, year-long missions would become the norm for the space station. The agreement by the partners was negotiated at the International Astronautical Congress in Naples this week.

Reuters, in a story reported by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya and edited by Rosalind Russell, adds that the Russian space program has "suffered a series of humiliating setbacks in recent months" that have "raised questions over Russia's reliability" and have cost billions of dollars. Reuters adds the interesting detail that the cost of sending astronauts into space aboard Russian spacecraft is $60 million per person.

RedOrbit reports that the year-long missions would provide "a better understanding of the long-term effects spaceflight would have on human health." We've been hearing about that kind of thing for decades; putting people in space helps us learn what happens to people in space. You'd think we have a pretty good idea how that works by now.

I didn't find much coverage, and I didn't find anyone asking what to me is the obvious question: Why are we doing this?

Do we have so much money for space exploration that we can pack astronauts off to camp for a year, at a cost of $60 million for the flight and who-knows-how-many millions for the accommodations? 

And for how long will we continue to send astronauts to a doomed space station when nobody is paying the least bit of attention? Reporters who cover the International Space Station might remind themselves to challenge the assumptions on which plans for the station are being made. 

-Paul Raeburn

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