The Washington Post has an interesting article about using the highly-underutilized International Space Station for something more important than low gravity experiments.
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.
It’d certainly be easier and cheaper than building something from scratch, and given that the ISS has been called the single most expensive thing ever built it would certainly be nice to get a better return on investment than seeing whether a boomerang thrown in zero gee will come back or not.
Universe Today offers some additional commentary.
(via Posthuman Blues)