NASA plans to crash the International Space Station into the Pacific in 2031
The International Space Station (ISS) has been orbiting the earth for about 21 years. Ever since the first long-term crew flew to the ISS on November 2, 2000, the station, which orbits at an altitude of about 400 kilometers, has been permanently inhabited. This fact makes it the longest-running continuously inhabited human outpost in space. But meanwhile NASA is already planning for the time after the ISS. The end of the space station is planned for January 2031, when the ISS is supposed to crash into the Pacific.
The end of the ISS is approaching
A number of significant scientific discoveries have been made on the International Space Station over the years, including significant discoveries about the behavior of the human body during long-term stays in space, advances in drug development, and insights into the behavior of fire under the influence of microgravity.
But now the era of the ISS is coming to an end. At least slowly, because the space station is still supposed to spend almost 9 years in orbit. The US space agency NASA has drawn up a “transition plan” and submitted it to the US Parliament. This stipulates that the last crew should enter the ISS in spring 2030. As early as the middle of the decade, NASA wants to start slowly reducing the orbit of the ISS. At the turn of the year 2030/31, a “point of no return” will be reached, after which a return to a stable orbit will be impossible. A few days later, the ISS is expected to crash into a spaceship graveyard in the South Pacific.
NASA already has successor plans
NASA seems to be firmly convinced that the end of mankind’s outpost is near. Some time ago there was a disagreement between the US and Russia on this. However, these have now been removed. The main reason for the decision to plan for the end of the ISS is the condition of the central structure of the space station. In contrast to all other parts, this is not repairable. However, there is confidence that the ISS can be operated safely by 2030, according to NASA. This is still being checked by Russia. NASA says it could save $1.3 billion in spending by ending the ISS in 2031. In 2033 it should even be possible to save 1.8 billion US dollars.
And there is already a plan for the successor to the ISS. A few weeks ago, NASA awarded contracts worth millions to three companies that were commissioned to develop private space stations. The ISS successors should be able to be launched in the second half of the decade, so that a continuous human presence in low-Earth orbit is guaranteed.
These private space stations will be open to government customers like NASA. As part of its own efforts, the US space agency wants to focus primarily on goals that are further away from Earth – primarily the return of mankind to the moon. It is not yet clear what Russia’s plans for human spaceflight and its own parts of the ISS will be. Meanwhile, China is already building its own space station.