To the Moon, Alice! To the Moon!

Writing in the WaPo Sunday Outlook section, Micheal Benson suggests sending the International Space Station to infinity and beyond. Or at least the moon and Mars:

“The only problem with this $156 billion manifestation of human genius — a project as large as a football field that has been called the single most expensive thing ever built — is that it’s still going nowhere at a very high rate of speed. And as a scientific research platform, it still has virtually no purpose and is accomplishing nothing….

“The ISS, you see, is already an interplanetary spacecraft — at least potentially. It’s missing a drive system and a steerage module, but those are technicalities. Although it’s ungainly in appearance, it’s designed to be boosted periodically to a higher altitude by a shuttle, a Russian Soyuz or one of the upcoming new Constellation program Orion spacecraft. It could fairly easily be retrofitted for operations beyond low-Earth orbit. In principle, we could fly it almost anywhere within the inner solar system — to any place where it could still receive enough solar power to keep all its systems running.”

Update: WaPo has published this rebuttal, It’s a Station, Not a Ship, by Jeff Volosin, a former NASA engineer and current space agency contractor. The title pretty much says it all.