The International Space Station may just be one of our greatest technological achievements as a human race. Not only is it a collaboration between 15 countries, but over 70 countries have participated in activities that happen aboard its laboratories. Thanks to this, we have advanced technology in areas such as medicine, agriculture and communications. But like all good things, the ISS comes with an end date: 2020. Fortunately, NASA recently announced a four-year extension on that date, planning to keep the station going until at least 2024.
Yes, that’s right, the ISS has at least 10 more years, thanks to this extension recently granted by the White House. Considering the station’s price tag, at over $100 billion, keeping it up there for as long as possible seems like a great idea. Originally launched in 1998, humans have occupied the station for nearly 14 years, since 2000.
This extension is also good news for commercial space flight ventures. NASA currently has contracts with both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. for carrying cargo to the ISS. Current contracts run through 2016, but expect those to also be extended further into the future. In fact, Orbital is scheduled to carry cargo to the station for the first time this month, barring any future problems arising from a recent massive solar flare. Other private companies, including Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin, are also developing spacecraft to carry humans and cargo to the station.
NASA hopes that this extension will buy them more time to plan and organize more experiments for the ISS laboratory. NASA wants to eventually extend the mission by another four years to 2028 and hopes that the White House approves this plan in the near future. As long as everything on the ISS functions correctly, it would be a no-brainer to keep it up there for as long as possible.