International Space Station operations are set to come to a halt at the end of the decade, when NASA crashes it into a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, the space agency announced this week.
The ISS will continue to conduct research and develop technology through 2030 as NASA works to transition station capabilities to commercially owned and operated entities.
“Things are getting old in space. Things are starting to show their age. There were cracks discovered that were letting air out, causing leaks. This stuff happens,” Mike Wall told NPR. , senior space editor for Space.com. .
According to transition report sent to Congress, NASA operators will direct the ISS to a region of the Pacific Ocean called the South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area – specifically around Point Nemo – in early 2031, when it re-enters the atmosphere. and crash into the water.
“It’s the safest place to bring down a large spacecraft that has reached the end of its life,” Wall added. “It’s quite big, you know, it’s as long as a football field.”
Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement that the plan sent to Congress will ensure a “smooth transition” to commercial space entities after the ISS goes offline.
Using private sector space companies will allow NASA to purchase “only the goods and services the agency needs” in the future, the agency said. Wall also noted that it would free up NASA to focus on more difficult goals, such as getting people to Mars.
the first ISS crew – made up of NASA astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev – took up residence on the station in 2000, more than two decades ago.