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Post at: Jun 20 2022

How NASA plans to retire International Space Station

Why in news

  • In early February 2022, NASA shared an statement which says the International Space Station (ISS) will continue its operation until 2031 and then crash into an uninhabited area in the Pacific Ocean known as Point Nemo.
  • NASA published a transition plan for the ISS, in which it explained how its operations will eventually be transitioned to commercial low-Earth orbit destinations.

Basics about ISS

  • The International Space Station is a large spacecraft.The space station weighs about a million pounds on earth and is approximately the same size as an American football field.
  • It can support a crew of six people, along with visitors. It also houses laboratory modules from the United States, Russia, Japan and Europe.
  • Many countries worked together to build it. They also work together to use it. The space station is made of many pieces. The pieces were put together in space by astronauts.
  • The first piece of the International Space Station was launched in 1998. A Russian rocket launched that piece. After that, more pieces were added.
  • The first crew arrived on November 2, 2000. People have lived on the space station ever since. NASA and its partners around the world finished the space station in 2011.
  • The space station's orbit is approximately 250 miles above Earth. NASA uses the station to learn about living and working in space. These lessons will help NASA explore space.

Why Is the Space Station Important?

  • The space station's labs are where crew members do research. This research could not be done on Earth.
  • Scientists study what happens to people when they live in space. NASA has learned how to keep a spacecraft working for a long time. These lessons will be important in the future.
  • NASA has a plan to send humans deeper into space than ever before. The space station is one of the first steps.

How will the ISS retire?

  • According to the NASA, the ISS’ re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere will take place in January 2031. Mission control will first lower its altitude, before the spacecraft begins its descent into the “South Pacific Oceanic Uninhabited Area (SPOUA),” in an area known as Point Nemo.
  • “ISS operators will perform the ISS re-entry burn, providing the final push to lower ISS as much as possible and ensure safe atmospheric entry,” the transition plan explains.

Point Nemo

  • Interestingly, the ISS was meant to be operated only for about 15 years. In 2014, NASA extended its tenure in space by another 10 years.

What’s next for the ISS?

  • According to NASA, once it retires, the ISS will be replaced by “one or more commercially-owned and -operated” space platforms. The private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations.
  • This transition to renting space onboard commercial platforms could end up saving NASA $1.3 billion in 2031 alone. The money saved can be applied to NASA’s deep space exploration initiatives, allowing the agency to explore further and faster into deep space.

Where INDIA stands?

  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is planning to launch its own space station and it would be set up by 2030.
  • India would be the fourth country to launch a space station after US, Russia and China.
  • As China has launched its first module of space station on 29 april 2021and two more modules is set to be launched in mid 2022. 

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