NASA has announced its retirement plan for the International Space Station (ISS) and it involves crashing it into the Pacific Ocean.
The US space agency plans on de-orbiting the ISS in 2031, transitioning the development of future space station projects to the private sector, according to a press release.
“The private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with NASA’s assistance,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters, in a statement.
“We look forward to sharing our lessons learned and operations experience with the private sector to help them develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective destinations in space.”
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The de-orbiting plan is detailed in a recently published transition report from NASA.
According to the report, the plan is to drop the ISS in an uninhabited part of the South Pacific Ocean called Point Nemo. Mission control will maneuvre the ISS to lower the altitude of the its orbit and line it up for its descent on Point Nemo in January 2031.
This announcement comes after the Biden-Harris administration agreed to extend ISS operations through 2030.
The station is in its third decade, developing technology for “human exploration missions to the moon and mars, finding new ways to combat disease and acting as a test bed for in-space manufacturing of advanced materials and new medical products,” according to a video by NASA.
Since its launch in 1998, the station has been home to 14 Canadian astronauts including Chris Hadfield, who famously recorded his own version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”
from space in 2013.
Most recently, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques returned to earth from the ISS in 2019.