Friday, March 14, 2003
1. ISS: RANSOM FOR CAPTIVE U.S. ASTRONAUTS PUT AT $50M EACH.
Currently, two Americans and one Russian are on the International Space Station. With the three remaining U.S. shuttles grounded indefinitely, Russia controls all transportation to and from the station. Russia says it urgently needs $100M to build two more unmanned Progress supply spacecraft to ferry water, fuel and other supplies to the station. The standard tourist fare for a week on the ISS is $20M (WN
29 Jun 01), but perhaps astronauts travel business class. Russia grumbles that the loss of Columbia led to cancellation of commercial and space-tourist flights that would have brought in $31M. Plans are to reduce the ISS crew to two: one Russian and one American. Neither the Russians nor the Americans want to risk leaving the ISS completely unmanned.
2. EPHEDRA: WILL MAJOR SUPPLIERS HIT A REGULATORY HOME RUN?
The results of an autopsy on Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler,
released yesterday, confirmed that his death was linked to use of the
herb ephedra, often sold as "legal speed." He was the latest of a number of athletes who have fallen victim to the stimulant. Why hasn't it been banned? The 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) exempts suppliers of "natural" supplements from any requirement to prove safety, efficacy or purity. The burden of proof falls on the FDA, which lacks the resources. But the FDA is now responding to the public outcry over ephedra by imposing new rules on the supplement industry, and ironically, the supplement industry's key allies on Capitol Hill are backing the new rules. According to the Hill paper, Roll Call, that includes Orrin Hatch (R-UT), whose home state is a center of the industry, and who was a key force in passing DSHEA. His son is a lobbyist for the supplement industry. So what are the rule changes? The industry still won't
have to show that a supplement is safe, or that it actually works, but
they will have to show it contains what it says on the label. The main
effect, according to Roll Call, will be to eliminate the small companies,
giving industry giants such as Metabolife a corner on the market.
3. TAIKONAUTS: CHINA AIMS TO EXPLOIT THE MOON'S VAST RESOURCES.
Resources? On the Moon? Yes, according to today's New York Times, they plan to corner the market for helium-3. Oh! You've heard that one before. It comes up every few years. Rocks from the Moon's surface, brought back by the Apollo missions and the Soviet Luna robot missions, contain high concentrations of helium-3 as a result of cosmic ray bombardment. "High" is a relative term. Helium-3 would be great fuel for a fusion reactor, but its in pretty short supply on Earth. Every now and then someone gets excited about bringing it back from the Moon and solving the energy problem. Then they run the numbers. That's
your homework assignment for next week.