ISS to be sunk after 2020: Russian space agency

Space junk is becoming an increasingly serious headache.

Moscow: Russia and its partners plan to
plunge the International Space Station (ISS) into the ocean at
the end of its life cycle after 2020 so as not to leave space
junk, its space agency said today.

"After it completes its existence, we will be forced
to sink the ISS. It cannot be left in orbit, it`s too complex,
too heavy an object, it can leave behind lots of rubbish,"
said deputy head of Roskosmos space agency Vitaly Davydov.

"Right now we`ve agreed with our partners that the
station will be used until approximately 2020," he said in
comments released today.

Space junk is becoming an increasingly serious

A piece of space debris narrowly missed the space
station last month in a rare incident that forced the
six-member crew to scramble to their rescue craft.

The ISS, which orbits 350 kilometres (220 miles) above
Earth, is a sophisticated platform for scientific experiments
bringing together space agencies from Russia, the United
States, Europe, Japan, and Canada.

Launched in 1998, the ISS was initially expected to
remain in space for 15 years until an agreement was reached to
keep it operating through 2020.

By going into a watery grave, the ISS will repeat the
fate of its predecessor space station Mir, which Russia sank
in the Pacific Ocean in 2001 after 15 years of service.

Moscow this month proclaimed the beginning of "the era
of the Soyuz" after the US shuttle`s last flight left the
Russian system as the sole means for delivering astronauts to
the ISS.

Russia is currently developing a new space ship to
replace the Soyuz capsule which is single-use, except for the
section in which spacemen return to Earth, said Davydov.

Tests of the ship will begin after 2015 and it will
have "elements of multi-use whose level will be much higher
than they are today," he said, adding that Russia will compete
with the United States in building the new-generation ship.

"We`ll race each other."

Davydov said it remains unclear what will come after
the ISS and whether mankind will see the need for a
replacement orbiting close to Earth.

"Lots of our tasks are still linked to
circumterrestrial space," he said, while adding that a new
space station could be used as a base for building complexes
that will explore deeper into space.


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