Four more years! The US Presidency has re-purposed Barrack Obama’s famous tweet for something altogether more exciting by extending the planned lifespan of the International Space Station (ISS) past 2020.
The White House confirmed that the 450 000kg hunk of metal and plastic that houses up to six astronauts (and cosmonauts if you prefer) will stay in service until 2024. It gives the recently turned 15 year old another decade in orbit.
The extension of the program will be used to “mitigate fully 21 of the 32 human-health risks anticipated on long-duration missions” in space as well as to test out new technology and spacecraft systems. NASA wants to get those out of the way before they attempt the first planned human mission to an asteroid by 2025 and a manned mission to Mars some time in the 2030s.
The ISS is not only being used for space exploration though with current research on the station including potential vaccines for Salmonella and drug resistant strains of bacteria and even a new technique for delivering cancer treatment drugs to tumours without affecting the healthy cells around it.
There is of course a tinge of South African pride involved with the extension of the ISS program. Not only can we claim one of only eight civilians who have ever visited the station (Mark Shuttleworth), we can also claim Pretoria born Elon Musk whose company, SpaceX, is one of the two currently contracted by NASA to resupply the station.
All that’s left to secure the future of the ISS is for the other participating nations to agree to the extension at a meeting taking place in Washington about the future of human space exploration over the next two days.
Source: White House Pressroom