Though discussion continues about what will eventually replace the International Space Station (ISS), the iconic orbiting station won’t be going anywhere any time soon. NASA has announced that the U.S. government has committed to continuing operations on the ISS for at least another eight years, through 2030.
The ISS has been in continuous use for more than 20 years, hosting astronauts from around the world. The station has also been continually upgraded during that period, such as an ongoing upgrade to the station’s power system which included the installation of new solar arrays beginning last year. However, the station is aging and will eventually need to be replaced with something else. There are also questions about whether the international cooperation between bodies like the U.S. and Russian space agencies will continue.
China recently launched the first parts of its own space station, and last year NASA announced three private companies would be working on plans for a new space station. But NASA and other agencies are keen for the ISS to continue operating until at least 2030 to ensure a continuous human presence in orbit. After 2030, NASA wants to transition to a commercially owned and operated station which will hopefully be completed by the late 2020s.
“The International Space Station is a beacon of peaceful international scientific collaboration and for more than 20 years has returned enormous scientific, educational, and technological developments to benefit humanity. I’m pleased that the Biden-Harris Administration has committed to continuing station operations through 2030,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
“The United States’ continued participation on the ISS will enhance innovation and competitiveness, as well as advance the research and technology necessary to send the first woman and first person of color to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis program and pave the way for sending the first humans to Mars. As more and more nations are active in space, it’s more important than ever that the United States continues to lead the world in growing international alliances and modeling rules and norms for the peaceful and responsible use of space.”
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