NASA will crash the International Space Station into the ocean by 2031


After allowing scientists from around the world to live in space while conducting research and experiments for the last 20 years, the International Space Station (ISS) will finally be retiring at the end of 2030, making a splash as it arrives back on Earth. 

NASA published the ISS Transition Plan which detailed the decades of work the renowned space station has accomplished while also explaining how the ISS will draw down its operations. By the end of 2030, the ISS will dive into the depths of the South Pacific Ocean, in a spot known as Point Nemo. 

Point Nemo is the point in the ocean that is farthest from land, approximately 3,000 miles off New Zealand’s eastern coast and 2,000 miles north of Antarctica. It's sunk over 263 pieces of space debris since 1971, used by the U.S., Russia, Japan and European states. 

Portions of the ISS began launching into space back in 1998 and by 2000 the space station was ready to welcome its first crew. NASA says the ISS has the volume of a five-bedroom house and can support a crew of six people, including visitors.  

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The ISS created the ability to have an ongoing human presence in space, allowing crew members to do research that could not be done anywhere else, like in December when experiments including bioprinting bandages, improving the delivery of cancer drugs and testing a fully degradable laundry detergent were sent up for testing. 

The ISS has also contributed to a host of new information about Earth’s changing climate environment along with advancing scientists’ understanding of dark matter. 

However, the ISS can only last for so long, as NASA explained the technical lifetime of the space station is limited. NASA isn’t alone in maintaining the ISS, other space agencies from around the world contribute, like the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. 

“At a time when other nations are seeking to expand their abilities to operate in space, the ISS remains the sole example of how an international team can productively and successfully cooperate over the course of decades in space,” said NASA. 

NASA intends to transition the ISS into the hands of commercial space partners, working with a multitude of commercial space companies to make sure the new ISS will be suitable for potential government and private sector needs.  

Axiom space, Blue Origin, Nanoracks and Northrop Grumman are among the commercial companies working with NASA to ensure a smooth transition of the ISS. 

“The private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with NASA’s assistance. 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,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA. 

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