Nasa is planning to crash the International Space Station into the Pacific Ocean in 2031, as it retires the scientific laboratory and becomes reliant on commercially operated platforms instead.
According to newly published plans, Nasa intends to keep operating the ISS until the end of 2030, after which it will be brought back to earth and crashed into a remote part of the Pacific Ocean known as Point Nemo.
The agency’s aim is to use the commercial ventures to purchase goods and services that the federal space program needs, instead of doing it all on their own, the report handed to Congress says.
It expects several Nasa crew members at a time to work aboard commercial space stations by the early 2030s, conducting scientific and medical research in microgravity.
Launched in 2000, the space lab has orbited 227 nautical miles above Earth with more than 200 astronauts from 19 countries enjoying stints on board.
Nasa said that commercially operated space platforms would replace the ISS as a venue for collaboration and scientific research.
“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 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.
“The report we have delivered to Congress describes, in detail, our comprehensive plan for ensuring a smooth transition to commercial destinations after retirement of the International Space Station in 2030.”
Robyn Gatens, director of the ISS added: “The International Space Station is entering its third and most productive decade as a groundbreaking scientific platform in microgravity.
“This third decade is one of results, building on our successful global partnership to verify exploration and human research technologies to support deep space exploration, continue to return medical and environmental benefits to humanity, and lay the groundwork for a commercial future in low-Earth orbit.
“We look forward to maximising these returns from the space station through 2030 while planning for transition to commercial space destinations that will follow.”