Nasa's 'James Webb Space Telescope' launches into orbit
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It comes a month after the Biden administration confirmed that it would extend the station’s operational lifespan to 2030. Now NASA has published an updated vision for the space station as it focuses on a new generation of probes. They expect to send the space lab plunging through Earth’s atmosphere in January 2030, splashing into the Pacific Ocean.
Robyn Gatens, the director of the station, said: “The ISS is entering its third and most productive decade as a groundbreaking scientific platform in microgravity.
“This third decade is one of results – building on our successful global partnership to verify exploration and human research technologies to support deep space exploration, continue to return medical and environmental benefits to humanity and lay the groundwork for a commercial future in low-Earth orbit.”
But the whole thing will not burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere like most space debris that are sent back.
Chunks of the ISS will survive re-entry and splash down at Point Nemo — a space junk graveyard in “the middle of nowhere”.
It is located in the South Pacific Oceanic Uninhabited Area, 1,670 miles from the Pitcairn Islands.
A number of other probes reside there, including the first US space station Skylab, which was taken out of orbit in 1979, and the Mir space station, which was disposed of in 2001.
The first ISS component was launched in 1998, and the first long-term residents arrived in 2000.
The station has since been continuously occupied for 22 years, becoming the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit.
It surpassed the previous record of 9 years and 357 days held by the Mir space station.
The ISS has been “a beacon of peaceful international scientific collaboration,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said.
But all of its mission goals will have been completed by the end of this decade.
The agency has testified to Congress that it plans to purchase crew time for “at least two – and possible more” NASA astronauts aboard commercial space stations by the early 2030s.
Several companies, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, have plans to launch their own commercial orbiters.
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Extending the life of the ISS to 2030 is intended to give private industry in the US the time to develop the capabilities needed to operate the microgravity platforms.
Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters, said: “The private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with NASA’s assistance.
“We look forward to sharing our lessons learned and operations experience with the private sector to help them develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective destinations in space.
“The report we have delivered to Congress describes, in detail, our comprehensive plan for ensuring a smooth transition to commercial destinations after retirement of the ISS in 2030.”
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