By 2028, NASA plans to abandon the ISS and move to the Moon in its way to Mars.
When the International Space Station will end its operational life, in the next 15 years, NASA won’t replace it, as previous rumors were saying. The U.S. space agency will simply abandon the low-Earth orbit and leave it to private industries to use it for commercial gain. This announcement has been made by NASA’s chief of human space flight, William Gerstenmaier.
Human astronauts have been living continuously on the ISS for the last 15 years but NASA’s future plans are moving humans from the Earth’s lower-orbit to the cislunar space.
With an annual programs budget of $3 billion and programmed to raise at $4 billion by 2020, NASA doesn’t afford to keep the ISS active and move the human exploration program to the cislunar space.
Everybody is now wondering what is going to happen to the ISS when NASA stops financing it. It seems that most likely, the station will be deorbited, burned when falling through the atmosphere and its remains will finally fall into the Pacific Ocean.
The ISS program, which costs $3 billion per year is operational until 2028 but only funded until 2024. NASA is already fighting to reduce the spending, assigning missions to cheaper American private companies such as SpaceX or Boeing instead of paying huge amounts to the Russians for taking their astronauts to the space station.
NASA envisions a future in which the lower orbit will be used by private companies which will probably build smaller stations and start using them for different purposes, from communications to mining asteroids, marketing and even tourism.
Besides the private companies other states might want a piece of that pie too. China, for example, has already announced that by 2020 will have a space station on the lower-orbit which will be permanently inhabited and it has also invited Europeans to join their program.
NASA is now focusing all of its resources on developing long-range rockets and space vehicles. The next attempt to leaving the low-Earth-orbit will be the Orion capsule, which is very similar to Apollo spacecraft. Apollo 17 mission was the last to take humans to the moon in 1972. Orion is now tested to develop the technology that will protect the crew from dangerous radiation.
Orion is designed to travel to both the Moon and Mars in the near future.
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