Today, it seems to many that science is not developing as fast as in the 20th century, but in many areas there is a phenomenon that further steps are possible only through the implementation of extremely expensive projects. However, gigantic investments in certain scientific projects indicate that states and scientists continue to pose important tasks that are worth such costs. Today there are so many projects with a budget over a billion dollars that it is difficult to single out a clear leader, so we will consider the twelve largest of them.
ISS (International Space Station). This object is located in the Earth's orbit, at a distance of 330-350 km from the surface. The total value of funds invested in the ISS exceeded $ 100 billion. The first module of the station was launched in 1998, since then its continuous construction has been carried out. It is the ISS that is the most expensive scientific project in the history of mankind. However, many question the scientific nature of this space research base. It is also the largest man-made space object. It can be mentioned that this is the only known place in the Universe (besides Earth) where there is a shower, toilet and even the Internet. In general, the station has a scattering of records, but with scientific achievements, things are worse. They really grow crystals here, conduct experiments with spiders and lizards. Only now there were no tangible breakthroughs for earth science either in biology or in physics. At least the general public is not aware of this. Numerous skeptics, for example, the theoretical patriarch of physics Freeman Dyson, believe that the ISS is just a big toy for humanity. However, this project can be considered preparation for new space missions. After all, the very process of assembling giant orbital modules is in itself interesting for programmers and engineers. Docking is another example of the use of thin technologies. Scientists are also studying traces of micrometeorites on the skin - this made it possible to study the behavior of materials when colliding with objects at speeds unattainable for terrestrial conditions. The main subject of research is still people. Doctors constantly monitor how the absence of gravity affects, for example, the composition of the bones of astronauts, the body's response to space radiation. This data will probably be useful in the construction of future bases on other planets or satellites.
International Experimental Thermonuclear Reactor (ITER). This reactor must generate energy by combining light atomic nuclei into heavier ones. The facility is located in France, not far from the Cote d'Azur, and will be invested in it from 12 to 15 billion dollars. As conceived by the creators, with the help of it it will be possible to safely obtain energy in large quantities. The construction of the reactor began in 2006 and will be completed in 2016. After the completion of construction for about 20 years, a number of experiments will be carried out here. Only if they are successfully completed in 2020-2030, the design of thermonuclear reactors for commercial use will begin, which will fully operate only until the distant year 2060. The very idea of thermonuclear fusion arose in the middle of the 20th century, then it seemed to be a unique source of energy. Scientists have proposed using reactions similar to those that occur in the depths of the Sun - atoms of hydrogen isotopes must merge into a helium atom with the release of a large amount of energy. Fuel for thermonuclear reactions is millions of times more caloric than oil. Raw materials can be obtained from ordinary water, and there is no risk of a man-made disaster like the Chernobyl one. In reality, the implementation of this project is hindered by many factors, both financial, political and purely technical. Only in 2006, world leaders were able to agree on the construction of an experimental facility. 4/11 of the amount was allocated by the European Union, Japan 2/11, and the rest was equally divided by India, China, the USA, Russia and Korea.
The Large Hadron Collider. In this accelerator, heavy ions collide with colliding beams of protons. The installation is located on the border of France and Switzerland. The cost of construction of the collider was about $ 10 billion. The aim of the project is to understand the nature of matter, time and the Universe as a whole. Construction began in 2001 and was fully completed in 2008. Today it is the largest and most expensive experimental installation in the world, its ring length exceeds 26 kilometers. In addition, the collider is being discussed not only by scientists, but also by the general public. Many people were intimidated by the launch of the installation at all, believing that this could lead to the end of the world. It is not surprising that the jokers have devoted many jokes and anecdotes to the fact of launching the installation.
Space Telescope "James Webb". This infrared observatory is located in space at the Lagrangian point L2 at a distance of 1% of a million kilometers from Earth. The launch of the $ 4.5 billion project is scheduled for 2013-2014. The telescope will help compile the biography of stars, galaxies and earthlike planets. Currently, the main telescope is the Hubble, and it will be replaced by James Webb in this position. It should be noted that they have little in common; the era of optical telescopes is likely to end with the sinking of the Hubble. "Webb" will look at the Universe already in the infrared range, as well as night vision devices. How is it better? The fact is that there is a redshift effect discovered by astronomer Hubl. Its essence is that with the distance of the object from the Earth and the acceleration of its movement away from us, the spectrum shifts to the red region. As a result, stars located billions of light-years away from us no longer see the eyes, but the night vision device distinguishes them perfectly. And the planets - potential doubles of the Earth are distinguished precisely by the infrared glow, so the light is reflected from the atmosphere back into space. "Webb" will be much more complex and massive than "Hubble". The main part of the new telescope will be a 6.5-meter mirror made of beryllium coated with a layer of gold. By comparison, the Hubble mirror was "only" 2.5 meters in diameter. Only in the event of a Webb breakdown, hardly anyone outside will help, while Hubble is periodically repaired by astronauts. James Webb also has a cheaper counterpart - the Herschel telescope, whose total cost with the Planck Observatory exceeded $ 2.5 billion. This installation has already been in space since 2009, the goal is also to study the infrared spectrum.
National Incendiary Installation (NIF). This laser fusion reactor is located in California and has a cost of nearly $ 4 billion. Its construction was completed in 2009, and the first results on obtaining cheap energy are planned to be obtained already in 2010. This place will be the brightest place on the planet. 192 ultra-powerful lasers are aimed at one point, during an ultra-short flash, in billionths of a second, a flash of light of 500 terawatts will be created, which corresponds to the light from 5 trillion bulbs. This should provoke a thermonuclear reaction inside the gold "thimble" with tritium and deuterium, which has a volume the size of a pea. In the long term, such a reaction may become the cheapest source of energy. The installation is naturally experimental in nature, around the central "thimble" a structure has grown in shape and size reminiscent of the "Luzhniki". This installation is a competitor to the French ITER, although their tasks are the same, but completely different means. Designs for thermonuclear reactions were invented a long time ago, smaller-scale installations already exist all over the world, but NIF has no analogues and direct predecessors.
Human proteome. This project aims to compile a list of all human proteins. The project has no territorial reference, it is being carried out simultaneously in hundreds of laboratories around the world, the total cost of the work is more than a billion dollars. It is planned that these studies will help develop fundamentally new tools for the diagnosis of diseases and their treatment. The project arose on hearing at the beginning of the 21st century, although squirrels learned to identify a century ago. All human life is based precisely on proteins, some of which allow us to move, others determine our mood, and still others are involved in digestion. In the mid-90s of the last century, Australian Mark Wilkins introduced the term "proteome", which was formed by the fusion of the words "protein" (which in English means protein) and "genome" (ie, a set of genes). The proteome is much more difficult to read than the genome. This is due to the fact that, firstly, the DNA sequence is relatively stable, but the protein composition of the body changes every second. In addition, it is not enough to understand which amino acids form a protein; you also need to understand its functions. Knowledge in this area can create a completely new medicine that will be able to diagnose any disease as quickly as possible and treat it successfully. There is an international organization, the Human Proteome Organization (HUPO), which is trying to coordinate the work of international scientific groups to solve the problem, with a particular focus on proteins of the brain, liver and blood.
Accelerator for research of antiprotons and ions. This extremely powerful particle accelerator is located in Darmstadt, Germany. Its cost is $ 1.7 billion. With the help of the installation, whose launch is planned in 2015, scientists will be able to simulate the early states of the Universe, this will give them the opportunity to better understand the structure of protons and atoms, the structure of the nucleus. Generally, the tasks of the accelerator are similar to those of the Large Hadron Collider. For example, the task of scientists is to recreate the substance that was formed in the first moments after the Big Bang. Another task is to study the strong interaction, because it is this that keeps the world from the inside, preventing the nuclei of atoms from breaking up into particles, and so, in turn, into quarks.
Science laboratory on Mars. The goal of this project is to launch a rover. The exact landing site has not yet been chosen for it - approximately it will be the 45th latitude or closer to the equator. One thing is already clear - the cost of the project exceeded $ 2.3 billion. Scientists hope to use the rover to find traces of life on the red planet. It is planned to launch the installation at the end of 2011, and in less than a year to get the first results. The dimensions of the rover will be small - about the size of a jeep. It will be the most equipped machine that has ever been on Mars. It is worth noting that the machine is also more reliable and more powerful than its predecessors - it will be able to see farther and dig deeper. The rover will not receive fundamentally new skills, just now their class will become higher. Scientists hope that now they will have better luck with the new one in search of water and microorganisms. The incredible budget of the expedition is due to the fact that Mars is the next target for manned flights after the Moon, and such space programs in the 21st century have become much better funded than purely scientific ones.
X-ray free electron laser. This X-ray laser will be the largest in the world. It will be located in Hamburg, Germany, the project cost is $ 1.5 billion. The start of the project is scheduled for 2013-2014. The device will make it possible to better analyze organic molecules as well as nanomaterials. On the surface, the laser will resemble a hadron collider. This is also an expensive underground loop installation. Naturally, the installation has other tasks - it should help to see molecular and atomic processes using short (less than a trillionth of a second) laser flashes. Russia's share in this project is almost a quarter. The money is allocated by the Rusnano corporation.
Census of Ocean Life. Since 2000, scientists have compiled a register of all those who live in the seas and oceans from the poles to the equator. It is planned to finish the census in 2010, the cost of the work is about $ 1 billion. The project was named Census of Marine Life. Such a list has been compiled for the first time, preliminary estimates suggest that it will contain at least 250 thousand species of marine animals. In addition to assessing the number and who generally lives in the ocean, the project should help identify habitats for various species. During the census, more than 6 thousand species have already been discovered, the most interesting of which is the Megaleledone setebos octopus, which lives off the coast of Antarctica. It is he who is the ancestor of all octopuses living in the depths. However, in addition to the scientific side, the project has a purely practical one. Indeed, experts estimate that there will be a global collapse of commercial fisheries as early as 2050, and understanding marine life can help prevent the problem.
Multi-antenna radio telescope (SKA). This installation is an antenna array with an area of one square kilometer. They plan to locate it either in South Africa or Australia. The length of the network will be 3 thousand kilometers, and the cost of all works will be $ 2 billion. With the help of the radio telescope, the researchers plan to obtain more information about the history of space. Despite the planned completion of the work in 2016, the first results should not be expected before 2020. SKA is capable of picking up hypothetical radio communications on the moon, but the world's most sensitive radio will listen to signals of exclusively inhuman origin - space radio waves. Radio astronomy can be compared to the vision of a frog, which sees only what is moving. If a star sends out powerful radio pulses in space, then something interesting is happening to it. Compared to optical devices, radio telescopes have an advantage - after all, the radio signal easily passes through walls, while in space there are no obstacles at all - only dust and gas for hundreds of millions of light years around. As a result, radio telescopes can easily listen for long distances. However, this sensitivity also requires appropriate dimensions. The SKA complex consists of 5,000 antennas of 12-meter diameter. A nuisance is the fact that the complex is located in the Southern Hemisphere, so most of the northern sky will remain inaccessible to it.
Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. The goal of the 1.5 billion program is to drill deep wells in specially selected areas of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. This will allow scientists to better understand plate tectonics, predict earthquakes, and reconstruct the planet's geological history. The first results of the program, which began in 2003, are already there, but scientists promise the appearance of the most interesting data in a few years. This project is one of the largest among all dedicated to the study of the Earth's interior. It is not surprising, because the insides of our planet remain a big mystery. The lunar soil can be felt in the laboratory, although it was transported over 300 thousand kilometers. The depths of the earth are studied largely thanks to indirect information. The main initiators of the project were Japan and the United States.Later, other countries joined their number. The project aims to get to the earth's mantle, or at least to the Mohorovich layer, which is located between the crust and the mantle. The program is based on several ships specially equipped for this. The installation on the most famous of them, Chikyu, can drill the ocean floor to a depth of 7 kilometers. However, for the discoveries it was not required to reach such depths - there is already information about the detection of bacteria at a depth of 1626 meters under the ocean floor.