Launched in 1998, the International Space Station is a marvel of collaborative space research. The ISS currently houses researchers from America, Japan, Russia and 11 European countries. However, the joint research aboard the vessel may be coming to an end in the near future.
The International Space Station launched in 1998 with a planned 15-year lifespan. Now, more than two decades after, the monument to human engineering is starting to show its age. Unfortunately, its days are numbered.
Cracks spread on the International Space Station
Reported by The Independent, cracks have started to spread across the International Space Station. Currently limited to the ISS’ oldest module, Zarya, the cracks are worrying members of the vessel. For now, the cracks only threaten Russian researcher’s equipment. However, rocket engineer Vladimir Solovyov says that the cracks will “begin to spread over time”.
Originally, the ISS was set to be retired in 2024, a date that Russian Space Agency Roscosmos is keen on sticking to. On the other hand, NASA is keen to keep the station running until at least 2030. But that might be an unachievable goal.
Solovyov warns that, by 2025, the International Space Station’s aged hardware will result in an “avalanche” of issues. Even now, 80% of in-flight systems on older modules are far past their expiry date.
Can it be saved?
As it stands, the ISS likely won't last for another decade. The station’s structural integrity is starting to fail and cracks like those breaking Zarya will result in hazardous air leaks. Structural fatigue will see the International Space Station reach retirement, it's just a matter of when. Of course, the next question is: what will we do with the Space Station? Once it reaches end of life, the ISS will be fired deeper into space.
The end of the International Space Station is the end of an era for space travel. As a massive collaborative effort, this could be seen as the greatest achievement for mankind in space. With humanity moving towards capitalist space projects, it’s to be seen if we’ll ever see this kind of collaboration again.