International Space Station (ISS) to crash down in 2031

05 Feb 2022 06:58am
The International Space Station pictured on Nasa official Facebook page.
The International Space Station pictured on Nasa official Facebook page.

Nasa has announced that the International Space Station (ISS) will be crashing down to Earth after it has fulfilled its purpose of facilitating scientific research and other operations that necessitate the unique attributes of humans in space.

The ISS will take its plunge into the Pacific Ocean in early 2031, which means that it will continue working until 2030.

This should not be surprising since each ISS module has a planned lifetime of 10 years.

Not to panic - the space station would crash into a part of the ocean that is also the point furthest from land on planet Earth - Point Nemo.

According to the US space agency, the point is known as the spacecraft cemetery since there have been multiple crashes of decommissioned satellites and other space debris there, notably the Russian space station Mir in 2001.

Nasa stated that the decision to reconfigure the ISS reflected a transition to the commercial sector for activities in low-Earth orbit, or space around Earth.

"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.

Texas-based company Axiom Space has been granted a contract to build at least one habitable module to be attached to the ISS and 3 US companies being the Blue Origin of Kent, Nanoracks LLC and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation of Dulles have been provided funding as Nasa selects them to develop commercial destinations in space.

The transition to the private sector is beneficial to Nasa since it saves $1.3bn (£956m) which will add to the cost of deep-space exploration and this happens because instead of paying for the maintenance and operations of the ISS, Nasa will only be paying for the services it needs.

Nasa's transition report was released this week after US President Joe Biden's administration announced that the space station's operations would be extended until 2030.

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However, international partners, including Russia, must still support the extension, and the US Congress has only approved funding for the ISS until 2024.

Chief of Russia's space programme, Dmitry Rogozin said he is willing to work with Nasa beyond 2024 in an interview with the Russian news agency Interfax in December 2021.

"Actions speak louder than words. This year we sent a new Nauka module to the ISS, which is expected to last at least 10 years," he said.

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