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posted by mrpg on Friday January 12 2018, @05:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the backups-in-space dept.

Although Russia has plans to detach some of its modules from the International Space Station (ISS) in order to form the basis of a new space station, the majority of the ISS may be deorbited as soon as 2024 or 2028:

Over the course of six missions, the British-born Nasa astronaut has spent more than a year in space. Foale has flown in the Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz, lived on the Mir space station and commanded the International Space Station (ISS). He’s carried out four space walks, totalling almost 23 hours outside in both Russian and American spacesuits. These included an epic eight-hour spacewalk to upgrade the computer on the Hubble Space Telescope.

[...] A joint enterprise between the US, Russia, the European Space Agency (Esa), Japan and Canada, the ISS has now been continuously occupied since 2000. And, over that time, has increasingly come to justify its $100bn (£75bn) cost. [...] But the station's days are numbered. Funding by the various space agencies involved is only agreed until 2024. This means in just six years' time, the most expensive structure ever built will be pushed out of orbit by a Progress spacecraft to disintegrate over the Pacific. And the countdown clock is ticking. "Year by year, Russia is launching the fuel to fill up the tanks of the ISS service module to enable the space station to be deorbited," says Foale. "That's the current plan – I think it's a bad plan, a massive waste of a fantastic resource."

[...] Since leaving Nasa, Foale has been working in the private sector on new aviation technologies and believes commercial operators could step-in to secure the future of the ISS. "I'm hoping that commercial space can come up with a business plan that allows part of the ISS to be maintained in space, without sinking it into the Pacific Ocean," he says. "You have to come up with innovative ways of keeping it in space." The ISS already supports some commercial operations. A private company, NanoRacks, operates experiments in equipment racks on the station for private clients. The station is increasingly also being used to launch small satellites into orbit, carried up in commercial spacecraft such as SpaceX's Dragon robotic supply ship. The Russian space agency takes tourists to the station and has even suggested it might build a hotel module.

[...] In the meantime, Foale is formulating his campaign to save the ISS and says he plans to launch websites to gather support to help save the space station. He says he intends to keep pressure on the space agencies to continue to fund the programme. "Every engineer, manager, astronaut or cosmonaut who's worked on the ISS, we all think the space station is such an achievement on behalf of humanity that it should continue," he says. "I'm still giving Nasa a chance to tell me how they're going to do it."

But, unless the private sector steps in, Foale fears that in 2024 the space agencies – and the politicians that fund them – will end up destroying one of the world's greatest engineering accomplishments, not to mention a massive economic investment by millions of taxpayers around the world.

Save it, send it to the Moon, or burn it?

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by VLM on Friday January 12 2018, @08:46PM

    by VLM (445) on Friday January 12 2018, @08:46PM (#621554)

    Funding by the various space agencies involved is only agreed until 2024.

    The budgeting process is not widely understood.

    Take for example this budget from '05 (13 years ago) []

    That budget plan only goes until '09 but that doesn't mean the station was deorbited in '09 or '10.

    Even if we were going to keep it around "forever" like our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, "we" as of 2017 or 2018 would never budget ahead much further than 2022 anyways, plus or minus a couple years.

    Its really a story clickbaiting intentionally mixing two things, the very non-ominous normal budgeting procedure, with human fatalism and realization of mortality such that the thing will get deorbited someday and technically despite the clickbait-y-ness of the original story, ashes to ashes and dust to dust and it'll get deorbited someday surely, although surely not until 2024 at least, supposedly.

    I guess the best way to put it is there is no formal budget plan to fund the Washington Monument past a couple years from now, and I'm sure some army corps of engineers have a wargame plan to safely demolish it in case of catastrophic damage buried deep in some vault, but that does not imply that in precisely four years its getting the bulldozer. Just that the budget is only planned out the penny for a couple years in the future and there does exist a plan to safely demolish it if it ever became necessary. Now tourist fans of the Washington Monument could be click baited into reading a fantastic story implying the monument is getting bulldozed in the fall of 2022, but ...

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