NASA, Obama Want 4-year Extension for International Space Station

Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 08:34 PM

 

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
The Obama administration wants to keep the International Space Station, a $100 billion orbital research outpost that is a project of 15 nations, flying until at least 2024, four years beyond a previous target, NASA said on Wednesday.

The extension would give the U.S. space agency more time to develop technologies needed for eventual human missions to Mars, the long-term goal of NASA's human space program.

Keeping the station in orbit beyond 2020 also would open a window for commercial companies and researchers to benefit from hefty U.S. investment in the outpost.

NASA's costs for operating the station, which flies about 250 miles above Earth, run about $3 billion a year. About half that sum is spent on transporting crew and cargo.

"Ten years from today is a pretty far-reaching, pretty strategic-looking vision," NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier said.

"This extension opens up a large avenue of research on-board station. It also changes the perspective for the commercial [transportation] providers. Now they can see a market that extends to at least 2024," he said.

In addition to commercial U.S. cargo ships and planned passenger space taxis, companies and research organizations are beginning to make use of the station's unique microgravity environment to develop a range of new products and technologies, including medications and off-the-shelf, shoebox-size satellites.

Construction of the orbital outpost began in 1998. The prime partners in the venture, with the United States, include Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada. It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since 2000.

Extending the station "is not a U.S.-only decision," Gerstenmaier said. "We talk to our partners about this. They want to go forward with this. It's just working through the government approval," he said. That would include approval from the U.S. Congress.

"We're prepared to do what we have to do if the partners choose to take a different path," Gerstenmaier added.

A technical review by prime station contractor Boeing shows the station's laboratories, structural frame, and other hardware are safe to fly until 2028, program manager John Shannon said earlier Wednesday at the opening of an international space exploration and policy summit.

"If the physical hardware continues to operate the way we believe it does . . . that leaves the door open in the future to extend," Gerstenmaier said.

At the end of its life, the station will be steered down into the atmosphere, where it will incinerate. Re-entry will take place over an ocean, so any surviving debris will not threaten populated areas.

The first of up to six U.S. supply runs to the station this year was slated for launch on Wednesday, but the flight was canceled because of extremely high levels of radiation caused by a huge solar flare.

Orbital Sciences Corp, one of two firms hired by NASA to ferry cargo to the station after the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011, may try to launch its Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo ship on Thursday. The rocket flies from a commercial spaceport on Wallops Island, Va.

"We are concerned about mission failure," Orbital Science's Chief Technical Officer Antonio Elias said. Radiation from the solar flare could potentially interfere with the rocket's avionics and other critical systems.

Privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which also holds a NASA contract to fly cargo to the station, is preparing for its third supply run on Feb. 22.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Marketing Expert: Apple Pay May Bring 'Digital Wallet' Future

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 15:24 PM

pple's new mobile payment system, Apple Pay, is a quick, convenient and secure method of making purchases online and off . . .

Apple CEO Discusses Security with Top Chinese Official amid Hacking Claims

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 06:30 AM

Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook discussed user data security at a meeting on Wednesday with a top Chinese government  . . .

Sen. Leahy Urges Comcast to Extend Net Neutrality Pledge

Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 12:40 PM

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has called on Comcast to extend its net neutrality  . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved