NASA extends space station life to 2024
Washington: The International Space Station will operate for an additional four years, or until 2024, the US space agency said on Wednesday.
"This is a tremendous announcement for us here in the space station world," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA`s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
The USD 100 billion orbiting outpost has been operational for 15 years, and had been expected to remain open to global collaborators until 2020.
More than a dozen countries participate in the space station, which has more living space than a six-bedroom house and comes complete with Internet access, a gym, two bathrooms and a host of science experiments.
NASA said the entire lab is the length of a football field (357 feet, 109 meters).
The International Space Station is the largest space lab ever built, some four times bigger than the Russian space station Mir and about five times as large as the US Skylab.
Although it is near weightless in space, the space station has a mass of 419,455 kilograms.
It is maintained by a rotating crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts from the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan.
"People love the International Space Station," said David Weaver, NASA`s associate administrator for the Office of Communications.
He said this is the second time the life of the station had been extended under the administration of President Barack Obama, and was done based on the science promise that could come from a longer life.
"We need a longer planning horizon than we currently have," Weaver said.
Gerstenmaier said the decision to extend goes until "at least 2024," and noted "the hardware can last to 2028."
"I think the idea is that 10 years from today is a pretty far-reaching, pretty strategic decision," he said.
"We have talked to the partners about this," he added. "They were involved in all the hardware studies. In general, they see this as a positive step moving forward."
Gerstenmaier said from the US perspective, the decision would not require any immediate funds, since the budget has already allowed for ISS activity through 2020.
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