The International Space Station (ISS) will remain operational for the rest of this decade after its mission was extended until 2030. However, NASA has revealed that in 2031, it will plummet to Earth and drown in the ocean. Moving forward, NASA says that all activities in low-Earth orbit (LEO) will be carried out by commercial operators, allowing NASA to focus on deep space projects.
“The private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with NASA’s assistance,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters. The agency’s report on the ISS’s death was compiled in order to finalize its “comprehensive plan for ensuring a smooth transition to commercial destinations after retirement of the International Space Station in 2030.”
The International Space Station (ISS) was launched in November 1998 and is currently operated by space agencies from Russia, Europe, Japan, Canada, and the United States. It is scheduled to remain in operation until 2024. The Biden administration has already committed to extending the station’s life to 2030, though all parties must agree on this plan.
“The ISS is now entering its third and most productive decade of utilization,” said NASA in the report, before going on to explain it expects to “realize significant advances” in each of its “five major mission goals” by the end of the decade. These include paving the way for deep space exploration, conducting research “to benefit humanity”, fostering a US commercial space industry, leading and enabling international collaboration, and inspiring humankind.
The proposed plan states that the transition from the ISS to the commercial sector will leave “no gap in the Government’s ability to use low Earth orbit space platforms.” Instead of building its own space station, NASA says it will pay for a minimum of two crew members per year to conduct research aboard commercial LEO spacecraft once the ISS is decommissioned.
This shift is expected to result in a $1.3 billion annual savings in the first year, rising to $1.8 billion by 2033. NASA claims that all of the extra funds will go toward its deep space exploration program.
Following its retirement, the ISS will make a controlled re-entry into the Pacific Ocean, landing at Point Nemo. Point Nemo, named after Captain Nemo, a fictional ocean navigator who first appears in Jules Vern’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, is the planet’s most remote location, with the nearest land approximately 2,700 kilometers away.
Because of its geographical distance, Point Nemo is an ideal location for a crash landing, and it has become famous as the place where spacecraft go to die.
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