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It's possible the ISS could have its mission extended from 2015 up to 2020

The nations collectively working on the International Space Station (ISS) are mulling over the possibility of extending its mission life through 2020, it has recently been reported.

More than 20 years of development and $100 billion of research funds have been invested into the ISS by the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, European Space Agency (ESA), and several other partners.  The participating countries expected the ISS to work through 2015, but decided further research could take place at the space outpost over an additional five years.

The first stage of the ISS was sent into orbit in 1998, as 15 nations came together to advance mankind with expected scientific breakthroughs that could be used on Earth.  A number of major setbacks, including the Columbia space shuttle explosion six years ago, helped delay construction on the ISS -- in fact, Japan hasn't been able to launch its ISS space module until recently.

The ISS won't be completed until late 2009 or sometime in 2010 when NASA plans to retire its current generation of space shuttles.  Furthermore, researchers are just now seeing scientific results from using the ISS as a mobile space research laboratory, and the additional five years could be greatly beneficial.

Until NASA is able to launch its next-generation Orion shuttle, the U.S. space agency will be forced to fly to the ISS on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

NASA is currently crunching numbers "in the event the [Obama] administration decided to propose" a possible extension and budget requests for the ISS extension.  The U.S. space agency believes operating the ISS an additional five years doesn't "pose any significant challenges" and the countries involved are "committed to work with their respective governments."

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Around $20 billion a year? I would hope...
By Boze on 4/13/2009 11:06:25 AM , Rating: 5
...that we manage to get more than five to seven years of usage out of a project that cost taxpayers of many different nations $100 billion dollars. I know that figure seems a drop in the bucket given the time frames of construction and the mission life of the ISS compared to the kind of funds being handed out by the American government to corporations nowadays, but still... would be nice to see that thing operating for another, uh, gee, I dunno... 10 to 20 years? We can't squeeze 20 years outta this thing for research? C'mon now...

By Belard on 4/13/2009 3:01:40 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah... that kind of doesn't make sense.

Spend 10+ years building it, then after 5 years - dump it into the ocean? As long as its in good condition, it should last until it becomes un-usable. It is modular, and yet we're still adding parts here and there... so the OLD parts that are warn out, go ahead and replace it with a new one. The thing has standard docking on the modules for expansion...

So AFAIK, the thing can / should grow as much as its needed.

By drycrust on 4/13/2009 3:55:39 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, and to add to that I'm wondering if it is actually safe to have in space. When Skylab came down, some of it actually hit the ground, so I'm wondering how much of the ISS would burn up on reentry.
There are four types of satellite in space: 1) Operational; 2) Junk that will fall to earth; 3) Junk that will stay there forever; 4) Operational that will fall to earth. As I see it, the correct procedure is 1 & 2, not 3 & 4, but 3 & 4 seems to be the current design philosophy. How can you put up a satellite with a design life of 10 years and not think about how to bring it down after 20 years? And how can you think about putting up a satellite which has the potential to be useful for 100 years and yet may fall down and kill people in just 20 years?
OK, I'm not an American tax payer, but to spend that amount of money on a project with such a limited life expectancy seems poor value.

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