Politics And Costs Of The ISS
As a joint project between the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe, there is no real owner of the International Space Station. The station is controlled through a mandate signed in 1998 by the member nations, defining the responsibilities of each member agency during and after construction. Brazil also has a stake in the development of the facility due to its agreement with NASA, meaning certain Brazilian astronauts occasionally get to visit the station.
The Russian Space Agency has a strong interest in the International Space Station and supplied a major portion of the facility, including parts of its previous space station, MIR. This means that Russian crewmembers make up approximately half of the crew at all times. The remaining crew compliment is generally split between the other member nations by specific percentages: 76.6 percent for NASA, 12.8 percent for Japan, 8.3 percent for Europe and 2.3 percent for Canada.
A major contention in the development and implementation of the International Space Station was the cost. Estimates range from $30 billion to $160 billion US Dollars (USD). The problems associated with finding an exact dollar figure is due to exchange rates, the time frame of construction and the fact that Russia utilized previously-built materials, the costs of which cannot be calculated.
Other challenges with the International Space Station are the facts that research is highly limited. Many proposed modules have been canceled over the years, leaving the ISS with limited resources for certain experiments. One of the primary research factors is that of experimentation on humans in long-duration space flights. In addition, NASA contends that the spin-off technology developed by the project outweigh the costs.
The 3 facts about the International Space Station help to give one a snapshot of the project, what its like to live aboard, the dangers associated with the project and the political costs of uniting the major space agencies around the world.
Above left: Crew of Many Nations on ISS; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/80/Meal_STS127.jpg)
Right: ISS Insignia. (Supplied by NASA; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/ISS_insignia.svg)