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国际空间站使用期限只剩六年?

更新时间:2018/1/21 10:17:15 来源:本站原创 作者:佚名

The astronaut fighting to save our home in space
国际空间站使用期限只剩六年?

Draw up a list of the world’s most accomplished and experienced astronauts, and astrophysicist Dr Michael Foale’s name is going to come pretty near the top.

如果把世界上最有成就、经验最丰富的宇航员列一张表的话,天体物理学家迈克尔·福勒(Michael Foale)博士无疑是名单上排名最前的几个人之一。

Over the course of six missions, the British-born Nasa astronaut has spent more than a year in space. Foale has flown in the Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz, lived on the Mir space station and commanded the International Space Station (ISS). He’s carried out four space walks, totalling almost 23 hours outside in both Russian and American spacesuits. These included an epic eight-hour spacewalk to upgrade the computer on the Hubble Space Telescope.

这位生于英国的NASA宇航员已经参与了6次太空任务,在太空中的总逗留时间超过一年。他曾搭乘美国航天飞机和苏联联盟号飞船(Soyuz)升空,在和平号空间站(Mir)上生活,并担任国际空间站指令长。他完成了四次太空行走,穿着俄罗斯和美国太空服一共执行了23小时舱外活动,其中包括长达8小时,创造了历史的哈勃太空望远镜修复任务。

“I’ve been very, very, very, very lucky,” he says, laughing. “Most astronauts are very jealous of me, which is probably why I won’t get to fly in space again!”

"我非常非常非常幸运,"他笑着说道,"大多数宇航员都很嫉妒我,这可能就是我不想再上天的原因!"

Most famously, Foale was on board Mir in June 1997 when an un-crewed Progress supply ship ploughed into the station, smashing a solar panel and breaching the hull. With the master alarm sounding, air leaking, power failing and the station spinning, Foale worked with his two Russian crewmates to prepare their Soyuz escape capsule and close off the damaged module.

尤其让福勒名声大噪的是:1997年6月,当他在和平号空间站逗留时,一艘进步号无人货运飞船(Progress)与空间站撞在一起,摧毁了一块太阳能电池板,并损坏了空间站外壳。此时主警报响起,空气开始泄露,电力供应被切断,空间站出现自旋。福勒和两名俄罗斯队友密切合作,将联盟救生舱整备完毕,并关闭了受损舱室。

By holding his thumb to a station window and examining the movement of stars, Foale used his physics training to estimate the spin rate of the station, so mission control could fire thrusters to bring it back under control.

福勒把拇指放在窗口测量恒星运动,然后利用物理学原理计算出了空间站的旋转速率,然后地面任务控制人员根据这些信息启动了发动机,最终使空间站恢复稳定。

The crew’s quick thinking under pressure not only saved Mir but meant their mission could continue. And, over the next few weeks, Foale worked alongside his colleagues to help repair the station, restoring full power and control as well as spending hours mopping up condensation from the dripping interior walls.

成员组在压力下的敏捷思维不仅拯救了和平号空间站,还延长了它的服役寿命。在接下来的几周时间里,福勒和队友合作修复空间站。他们完全恢复了供电和控制系统,并花了几个小时时间擦干内墙表面凝结的水珠。

“I didn’t feel our lives were threatened for much longer than 10 seconds or so during the collision,” says Foale. “I always felt there was an opportunity to save ourselves and that knowledge meant that I didn’t need to panic, didn’t need to be afraid.

"飞船和空间站发生碰撞10秒钟以后,我就相信我们没有生命危险,"福勒说。"知道这点后我就坚信我们有机会拯救自己的生命,所以没有恐惧,也没有慌乱。"

“It became one of my best missions,” he adds. “I had so many opportunities to invent solutions to problems that ordinarily Nasa managers didn’t expect you to solve.”

"那是我完成过的最佳任务之一,"他说。"我发挥了创造力找到了很多解决问题的方法,这些方法是NASA的经理们想不到的。"

Now more than 20 years after saving one space station, Foale wants to save another: the ISS.

在成功拯救一座空间站20年后,福勒希望拯救另外一个:国际空间站(ISS)。

I first interviewed Foale at Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in November 1998 shortly after the launch of the first stage of the ISS, the Zarya module. He was there on behalf of Nasa astronauts to champion the project, which at this stage was over budget, behind schedule and beset by political bickering (you can get a flavour of the situation from this story written just over a year later.

我第一次采访福勒是1998年11月在俄罗斯拜科努尔(Baikonur)航天发射场,当时国际空间站的第一个舱室"曙光"舱刚刚发射不久。当时他代表NASA宇航员庆祝这一时刻。当时的国际空间站项目面临预算超支和进度延误的压力,还受到政治口角的困扰。

A joint enterprise between the US, Russia, the European Space Agency (Esa), Japan and Canada, the ISS has now been continuously occupied since 2000. And, over that time, has increasingly come to justify its $100bn (£75bn) cost.

作为美国、俄罗斯、欧洲太空署、日本和加拿大的合作项目,国际空间站自2000年以来就一直有宇航员居住,随后其创造的发现不断让人们认为这一耗资达1,000亿美元的空间站物有所值。

The station has proved that humans can live and work in space for prolonged periods and carry out useful science in orbit. It has also shown that nations which struggle to cooperate or trust each other on the ground – such as the US and Russia – can work together in space.

国际空间站已经证实,人类可以长时间在太空中停留并在轨道上完成各种科学实验。它还表明,美国和俄罗斯等在地球上能够紧密合作和相互信任的国家在太空中同样能够开展合作。

“It’s that cooperation, that strength in the partnership, that’s really the value from a project such as the ISS,” says Foale who, after flying there himself in 2003, is one of two astronaut members of an international commission overseeing ISS policy and operations.

"国际空间站是一个饱含合作、友情和价值的项目,"福勒曾于2003年在国际空间站执勤,目前在一个负责监管国际空间站政策和合作的国际委员会中担任委员,该委员会仅有两名宇航员出身的委员。

But the station’s days are numbered. Funding by the various space agencies involved is only agreed until 2024. This means in just six years’ time, the most expensive structure ever built will be pushed out of orbit by a Progress spacecraft to disintegrate over the Pacific.

然而,国际空间站的日子已经所剩无几。多国太空机构当初商定的投资期限只到2024年,这意味着在短短6年后,这座有史以来耗资最为庞大的设施将在一艘进步号飞船推动下离开轨道,并在太平洋上空解体焚毁。

And the countdown clock is ticking.

倒计时已经开始。

“Year by year, Russia is launching the fuel to fill up the tanks of the ISS service module to enable the space station to be deorbited,” says Foale. “That’s the current plan – I think it’s a bad plan, a massive waste of a fantastic resource.”

"俄罗斯每年都把国际空间站服务舱的燃料箱加满,从而让它在未来有能力脱离轨道,"福勒说。"这是目前的计划——我认为这个计划很糟,是对珍贵资源的巨大浪费。"

But national priorities are shifting and there is only so much money to go around. With the 50th anniversary (in July 2019) of the first manned lunar landing fast approaching, President Trump recently directed Nasa to return to the Moon. The plan involves building a space station, or ‘lunar gateway’, in orbit around the Moon before constructing a base on the surface. It’s an ambition supported by the head of Esa, Jan Werner, and the Russian space agency. Separately, and adding to the political pressure on the US, China is pursuing lunar landing plans of its own.

但是由于各国重点项目的迁移,已经没有足够资金维持这座空间站了。在人类首次载人登月50周年纪念日(2019年7月)即将到来之际,特朗普总统要求NASA重返月球。重返月球计划包括建造一座绕月空间站作为抵达月球的门户,然后再建设月面基地。欧洲太空署署长简·维尔纳(Jan Werner)和俄罗斯太空署都对这一宏伟计划表示支持。中国则自行发展登月计划,这无疑会给美国施加一定的政治压力。

Although none of the proposals are fully costed, it seems unlikely that the space agencies will be able to invest additional funds for Moon missions on top of their current human exploration budgets. For Nasa, this currently adds up to around $8bn (£5.9bn) and includes running costs of $1.4bn (£1bn) for the space station as well as investment in new spacecraft such as the Space Launch System.

尽管上述设想的成本并非高不可攀,但是各国太空机构应该不会在当前载人航天预算之外拥有多余的资金投入这些宏伟计划。NASA的重返月球计划将耗资80亿美元,其中包括14亿美元的空间站运营成本,以及开发SLS(Space Launch System)飞船等航天器所需成本。

Unless Congress approves additional funds for Nasa or there are cuts in other programmes – and both would seem unlikely – any cash that goes into building a lunar orbiting space station or funding a return to the lunar surface would have to come from existing funds.

除非国会向NASA划拨额外资金,或者其他项目下马(二者的可能性都不大),否则建造绕月轨道空间站或重返月面的计划将占用现有资金。

“These various projects compete for the money,” says Foale. “They can’t go to the Moon or Mars and also continue to supply the ISS with crews, cargo, food and supplies.”

"这么多项目都在争夺资金,"福勒表示。"他们没办法在去登月或登火星的同时为国际空间站发送乘员、货物、食品和补给。"

Since leaving Nasa, Foale has been working in the private sector on new aviation technologies and believes commercial operators could step-in to secure the future of the ISS. “I’m hoping that commercial space can come up with a business plan that allows part of the ISS to be maintained in space, without sinking it into the Pacific Ocean,” he says. “You have to come up with innovative ways of keeping it in space.”

从NASA离职后,福勒一直在私营企业工作,负责创新技术的开发。他认为,商业航天企业将参与进来,延续国际空间站的寿命。"商业航天企业能够提出商业计划,让国际空间站的一部分保留在太空中,而不是全部坠入太平洋,"他说。"要想做到这一点,就必须采用创新性手段。"

The ISS already supports some commercial operations. A private company, NanoRacks, operates experiments in equipment racks on the station for private clients. The station is increasingly also being used to launch small satellites into orbit, carried up in commercial spacecraft such as SpaceX’s Dragon robotic supply ship. The Russian space agency takes tourists to the station and has even suggested it might build a hotel module.

国际空间站目前已开始支持某些商业活动。一家名为NanoRacks的私营企业为私人客户在空间站的设备架上开展在轨实验。有越来越多的客户在国际空间站上发射小型卫星入轨,这些小型卫星是由SpaceX公司的龙号(Dragon)无人货运飞船送达空间站。俄罗斯航天署开展了太空旅游,还曾表示计划建造一座太空旅馆舱段。

Although most of the business of human spaceflight is still directly or indirectly supported by governments (and ultimately the taxpayer), the true privatisation of space is starting to take hold. SpaceX’s competitor Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, recently completed another successful test of its new rocket. And, after many setbacks, space tourism company Virgin Galactic is moving towards its first sub-orbital launch with its Spaceship 2.

尽管大多数载人航天活动都由政府直接或间接支持(归根结底是纳税人出的钱),但是太空的真正私营化已经是一个必然的趋势。SpaceX的竞争者,亚马逊创始人杰夫·贝索斯(Jeff Bezos)拥有的蓝色起源公司(Blue Origin)最近再次成功进行了新型火箭的发射试验。在遭受多次挫折后,太空旅游公司维珍银河(Virgin Galactic)正在准备使用其Spaceship 2号飞船进行首次亚轨道发射。

In the meantime, Foale is formulating his campaign to save the ISS and says he plans to launch websites to gather support to help save the space station. He says he intends to keep pressure on the space agencies to continue to fund the programme.

与此同时,福勒也开始四处奔走,力图拯救国际空间站。他计划开设网站获取支持,并不断对各国太空署施加压力,敦促他们继续为国际空间站计划提供资金。

“Every engineer, manager, astronaut or cosmonaut who’s worked on the ISS, we all think the space station is such an achievement on behalf of humanity that it should continue,” he says. “I’m still giving Nasa a chance to tell me how they’re going to do it.”

"每位曾经为国际空间站工作过的工程师、经理和各国宇航员都认为,空间站是代表全人类的伟大成就,它应当继续生存下去,"他说。"我仍然在等待NASA告诉我他们打算怎么处置国际空间站。"

But, unless the private sector steps in, Foale fears that in 2024 the space agencies – and the politicians that fund them – will end up destroying one of the world’s greatest engineering accomplishments, not to mention a massive economic investment by millions of taxpayers around the world.

福勒担心的是,除非私营企业介入,各国太空署(以及提供资金的政治家们)将在2024年亲手给这一世界最伟大工程成就画上句号,并让世界各国千百万纳税人付出的巨额投资付之东流。

“I’ve had my hopes dashed a thousand times,” Foale says. “I thought I’d be on the Moon by the time I was 35 and Mars by 45, I wasn’t a fool but I was certainly naive about politics.”

"我年少时的千百个梦想后来都只不过是梦想而已,"福勒说。"小时候,我曾经天真地以为我35岁能登上月球,45岁能登上火星。我不傻,但在政治面前,毫无疑问我很单纯。"

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