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International Space Station

21 Years Ago, The First Module Of The International Space Station Was Launched Into Orbit. Over The Last Two Decades, It Has Been The Home To Hundreds Of Astronauts, Conducting An Incredible Amount Of Scientific Research To Help Us Improve Life On Earth. But How Long Does The Space Station Have Left? And What Will Happen When It Eventually Retires?

In This Article, We’re Going To Look At What The Future Holds For The International Space Station (ISS). We’re Also Going To Look At Where Satellites Go To Retire And NASA’s Plans For Future Space Stations Around Earth And Beyond.

Over The Last 20 Years, The ISS Has Grown To Be The Size Of An Entire Football Field, Completing More Than 100,000 Thousand Orbits Around Earth. However, The Materials And Structures That Make Up The Space Station Will Eventually Wear Down To The Point Where It Becomes Unsafe For The Astronauts.

Not To Mention, It Costs NASA Around 4 BILLION Dollars Each Year To Operate The ISS And The Current Budget For The Space Station Ends In 2024. NASA Are Looking To Retire The Program In 2028 In Order To Free Up Funding For More Exciting Missions Into Deep Space. But Once They Decide To Retire The ISS, They Will Have The Challenging Task Of Removing The World's Largest Spacecraft From The Sky.

According To The Outer Space Treaty, Each Country Is Legally Responsible For Deorbiting Their Own Modules. Many Have Suggested That Each Module Should Be Brought Down Separately And Reassembled To Become A Museum Piece Here On Earth. However, The Only Vehicle Capable Of Doing Something Like This Was The Space Shuttle, And Even That Would Require 27 Missions To Carry Each Segment Back To Earth. The Most Likely Solution Is To Deorbit The Space Station Into An Area Of The Pacific Ocean Names And Known As Point Nemo. This Area Is Over 1,000 Miles Away From Any Civilization, Making It The Safest Place To Discard Retired Spacecraft. This Area Is So Remote, That The Closest Humans Are Actually The Astronauts Aboard The ISS, Which Flies At Just 250 Miles Above The Surface. Since The Beginning Of Spaceflight, Over 200 Satellites Have Ended Up In This Location, Including The Russian Mir Space Station, Which Was Deorbited Here In 2001.

When A Satellite Reenters The Earth’s Atmosphere At High Speed, The Intense Heat And Pressure Is Enough To Completely Disintegrate Most Satellites. At The Time, The Mir Space Station Was The Largest Spacecraft To Be Deorbited, And Some Of The Larger Sections Managed To Survive Reentry, Creating A Trail Of Debris 1,800 Miles Long. Just Like Mir, The ISS Wasn’t The First Space Station, And It Won’t Be The Last. Before Their Involvement With The ISS, The Russians Had Successfully Operated 7 Of Their Own Space Stations.

Once The ISS Is Retired, The Russians Plan To Remove Their Own Segments And Use Them To Make A New Space Station. Meanwhile, The Chinese Space Agency Have Been Developing Their Own Space Station, Which Is Scheduled To Be Launched In This Year 2020, Taking 3 Years To Fully Assemble.

With The ISS Coming To An End And With No Plans To Replace It, NASA Have Looked Towards Private Companies To Either Takeover The Space Station Or Develop Their Own. Once SpaceX Has Starship Up And Running, It Could Be Modified And Turned Into Its Own Space Station, With A Single Starship Providing More Space Than The Entire ISS. However, Unless SpaceX Find A Way Of Making Space Stations Profitable, It’s Unlikely That They Will Take On Such A Challenge. NASA On The Other Hand, Currently Has Its Eyes Set On The Moon. They Are Developing A Lunar Space Station Which Is Scheduled To Be Launched In 2024. Astronauts Will Spend Long Periods Of Time On This Space Station, To See How The Human Body Reacts To The Intense Radiation Outside Of Earth’s Magnetic Field. This Space Station Will Also Be The Holding Point For The Deep Space Transport Vehicle, Which Is Designed To Take Humans To And From Mars. So, Although It Will Be Sad To See This Iconic Space Station Come To An End, We Can Appreciate The Enormous Amount Of Knowledge, It Has Given Us, And We Can Look Forward To A New, Exciting Future Of Space Exploration.

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