Despite efforts to keep the iconic International Space Station going, NASA can't stop the inevitable. After over 20 years of service, plans are being put in place to retire the ISS in less than 10 years. Oh, and it's retirement won't exactly be quiet.
NASA plans to crash the International Space Station
Via CNN, NASA will keep running the International Space Station until the end of 2030, 17 years after its initial end date. This lines up with projections for the iconic station’s end of life as more cracks start to pop up on the vessel.
Upon its retirement in early 2031, the ISS will be crashed back into Earth. The massive space base will fall into a location in the Pacific Ocean dubbed Point Nemo, named after a character in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Point Nemo is known as Spacecraft Graveyard, home to almost 300 pieces of crashed space objects. The location is chosen by multiple countries’ space programs for de-orbiting as it’s the furthest point of the ocean from any piece of land.
Before the crash, the ISS will be thrust into its busiest period yet. ISS director Robyn Gatens said:
"This third decade is one of results, building on our successful global partnership to verify exploration and human research technologies to support deep space exploration, continue to return medical and environmental benefits to humanity, and lay the groundwork for a commercial future in low-Earth orbit."
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The end of an era
The International Space Station's retirement is a sad day for fans of humanity’s space efforts. Currently, the station stands as a symbol of collaboration across the world, a coalition of space agencies from years past.
There will be no replacement for the ISS, at least not one that's built with the same collective in mind. Instead, countries will have individual stations , such as China's Tiangon Space Station that launched last year.
Additionally, many are placing their hopes on commercialised space travel instead. In a statement, NASA said the “private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with NASA's assistance.”
This lines up with current plans to create space tourism for the ultra rich. In the future, Axiom Space will be launching its own Commercial Space Station for private use and tourism. This will also feature the addition of SEE-1, the first movie studio in space.
Still, this marks the end of a moment in time where humanity worked together purely for knowledge, not for profit. It’s a solemn time, but it's not too surprising. Perhaps, one day, we can have a true International Space Station again.