21 years ago the 1st module of the International space station was launched into orbit. Over the last two decades it has been home to hundreds of astronauts conducting an incredible amount of scientific research. Last 20 years the ISS has grown to be the size of entire football field, completing more than 100000 orbits around Earth.
However the materials and structures that make up the space station will eventually wear down to the point where it becomes unsafe. It’s not to mention we consciousness around 4 billion dollars each year to operate the ISS. Authorities looking to retire the program 2028 in order to free up funding or more exciting missions into deep space. But once they decide to retire the ISS they will have the challenging task of removing the world’s largest spacecraft from the sky.
Each country is legally responsible for the orbiting their own modules. Many have suggested each module should be brought down separately and reassemble to become a museum piece here on Earth. However it the only vehicle capable of doing something like this was the space x and even that would require 27 missions to carry each segment back to Earth. The most likely solution is to De-orbit the space station into an area of the Pacific Ocean, known as point nemo misery, is of a 1000 miles away from any civilization, making it the safest place to discard retired spacecraft. This area is so remote.
Since the beginning of space flight over 200 satellites have ended up in this location including the Russian space station which was De-orbited here in 2001. When a satellite re enters the earth’s atmosphere at high speed the intense heat and pressure is enough to completely disintegrate most satellites.
ISS wasn’t the 1st place to shoot in and it won’t be the last before their involvement with the ISS as the Russians had successfully operated 7th of their own space stations. Once the ISS has retired the Russians plan to remove their own segments and use them to make a new space station.
meanwhile the Chinese space agency have been developing their own space station which is scheduled to be launched in 2020, taking 3 years to fully assemble. With the ISS coming to an end and with no plans to replace it NASA have been looking toward private companies to either take over the space station or develop their own one.
Space X has starship up and running it could be modified and turned into its own space station with a single starship, providing more space than the entire ISS. However unless space-X find a way of making space stations profitable. It’s unlikely that they will take on such a challenge.
NASA on the other hand are currently has its eyes set on the moon. They are developing a lunar space station which is scheduled to be launched in 2024.
As astronauts will spend long periods of time on the space station to see how the human body reacts to the intense radiation outside Earth’s magnetic field. The space station will also be the holding point for the deep space transport vehicle which is designed to take humans to and from Mars.
So although it will be sad to see this iconic space station come to an end. We can appreciate the enormous amount of knowledge it has given us and we can look forward to a new exciting future of space exploration.