Update: In a tweet, NASA states that "people will work aboard station at least through 2020," so 2020 is not a hard cut-off date for the International Space Station. In addition, MSNBC notes that the ISS stakeholders are looking into whether the space station can remain usable until 2028. The MSNBC story also provides an excerpt from a Russian TV transcript where Vitaly Davydov of the Russian Space Agency discusses de-orbiting the ISS. It's worth a read. Our original story follows below.
The Russian space agency and its partners have announced their plans to sink the International Space Station (ISS) into the ocean once it reaches the end of its lifespan in 2020.
The ISS would be perhaps the largest man-made thing to fall through our atmosphere, and that's exactly why the Russians and other space agencies involved will not just let it orbit above us indefinitely. If anything were to collide with the massive and complex ISS, it would leave a cloud of space debris.
This is not the first time a space station has been plunged into our oceans: In 2001, the Russians sank the Mir space station into the Pacific. The ISS has been active since it was first launched in 1998 for an initial 15-year mission. The mission was extended and has led to partnerships with United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada.
Russia is also ending the "Soyuz era", but they have plans for testing new ships with multi-use element after 2015. Similarly, NASA might have landed their last shuttle ever, but they are also looking forward into new space travel with the Mult-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
Will the new space race be as exciting? Leave a comment.
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