[FPSPACE] London Sunday Times

Max White bmews at hotmail.com
Mon May 8 12:19:18 EDT 2017


This piece seems more a plug for the sci fest sponsored by the Times, than anything else. So why is Roscosmos talking of operations extending to 2028...


International Space Station to go down in a blaze of glory
Plans are being drawn up to scrap the vessel and send it hurtling into the ocean in a spectacular firework display

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor
May 7 2017, 12:01am,
The Sunday Times

The station has travelled more than 115m miles over 20 years

Nasa scientists are drawing up plans to dismantle the International Space Station and send it hurtling into the Pacific in the world’s most spectacular demolition job.

Tim Peake, the British astronaut, could be among the team that prepares the ISS for its fiery demise — he is due to return to the station between 2021 and 2024 — when its funding runs out.

The massive modules, fuel tanks and other components would generate a series of fireballs as they burn up in the atmosphere.



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Jonathan Leake follows the ISS’s incredible journey
The plans were revealed by Ellen Stofan, Nasa’s chief scientist, who helped set them in motion before recently leaving the agency.

“The future of the ISS is a big issue for Nasa. The funding is there till 2024 but then it must start moving money to human Mars missions.


“If we keep it fully funded after 2024 it will compromise the Mars budget and by 2028 it will start failing. It is huge, the size of a football pitch, so the overall plan is to drop it into the Pacific.”

Stofan will be describing the plans when she speaks next month at the Cheltenham science festival.

Construction of the ISS began with the launch of the first modules in 1998, since when humanity has had a continuous presence in space. One idea is that the platform could be dismantled with some elements brought back to earth while others remain in space — a decision which depends on the Russians, who own several sections.

Another is that from 2020 the ISS could be opened up to commercial flights, including tourism. This is linked to Boeing’s development of the Starliner, a spaceship that will take people into low orbit, including the ISS, from 2020.

Stofan said Nasa’s future lay not with the ISS but another more ambitious space station — orbiting the moon. But even this would be just a staging post. “To get to Mars we would need a transfer station. That means launching the modules for a Mars space ship and assembling them in an orbit around the moon.”

David Parker, director of human spaceflight and robotic exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA), a partner in the ISS project, said the space station had taught scientists about surviving the health hazards of space which can include brain swelling, eye damage and skin problems — but its research value would decline.

Pointing out the ISS cost the ESA about £300m a year, he said: “Our plan is to free up this money from the mid-2020s to explore beyond low earth orbit . . . that will eventually mean de-orbiting the ISS.

“The south Pacific is the target and it will be a huge fireworks display.”

THE ISS IN NUMBERS
1998 construction started
227 astronauts have lived on board
412 tons makes the ISS the largest-ever space structure
664+ days Peggy Whitson will have spent in space when she returns in September, setting a record for continuous stay

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