The International Space Station (ISS) has been in operation for 23 years and its age is beginning to show in the form of many problems.
The ISS began its work in orbit in 2000, and 23 years of continuous operation are already beginning to affect this space base, including in the form of cracks and leaks. Now NASA is thinking about how best to destroy the station in the early 2030s, but the cost of this plan is truly amazing, writes Futurism.
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NASA estimates that the safe end of operation of the ISS will cost approximately $1 billion. According to the plan, the space base would be lowered into Earth’s atmosphere, where it would burn up safely, although the remaining debris would fall into the Pacific Ocean.
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The cost of lowering the ISS from its current orbit is so high because NASA is not going to use Russian space cargo ships for this, which are now very important for the ISS, because they maintain its stable position in space.
NASA’s new plan marks the end of decades of cooperation with Russia on the ISS in light of deteriorating relations between the United States and Russia due to the war in Ukraine. According to Maya Cross, a political scientist at Northeastern University, USA, the ISS is an example of the largest international cooperation in human history.
There are two ways to remove the ISS from orbit and lower it into the Earth’s atmosphere. That is, you can simply make the station fall down uncontrollably, or use a special spacecraft for a controlled descent that will direct the ISS in the desired direction. If you follow the first method, then there is a threat that unburned debris from the station will fall on populated areas of the planet.
According to George Neild, head of Commercial Space Technologies, such an uncontrolled descent could lead to death and injury, as well as widespread destruction of infrastructure.
Scientists need to minimize the amount of debris that can fall down, which is very difficult to do. Ideally, the ISS should simply be pointed down in the desired direction so that the station gradually burns up in the atmosphere, but this process is complicated by the uneven thickness of the atmosphere and unpredictable conditions in it.
If NASA does not use Russian Progress space cargo ships to descend the ISS, then the Americans will have to build another powerful spacecraft that would help the station descend and accompany the ISS during its descent.
According to Neild, even if NASA decided to use Russian ships, it would still be a difficult task to dismantle the station, but given the deterioration of US-Russian relations, this option is not being considered.
In any case, experts say, you can be sure that the ISS will explode in the atmosphere after descent and this will be the end of the famous space project in which many countries around the world took part.
As Focus already wrote, the ISS should cease to exist at the beginning of 2031, but after that only commercial bases will remain in orbit.