Russia extends operation of the International Space Station until 2024
The Russian government has accepted NASA’s proposal to prolong the life of the International Space Station (ISS ) through 2024. This decision ends fears that recent tensions between the United States and Russia over the Ukraine crisis would jeopardize NASA-Roscosmos space cooperation, and it follows other nations also agreeing to extend involvement on the ISS.
“I have informed my colleagues that the Russian government has approved the operation of the ISS until 2024,” Roscosmos head Igor Komarov told a news conference on Thursday, July 23, after Wednesday’s successful manned launch of the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft to the ISS with members of the Expedition 44 crew.
Komarov added that political disagreements between the partner states have not affected the ISS program, acknowledging that outer space is a sphere where national and political interests need to be subordinate to common values.
“The approval of extended operation of ISS by the Russian and Canadian governments suggest that we will continue to move forward together [in space],” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, in response to Komarov’s announcement.
Canada announced, in April 2015, its will to prolong ISS operations until 2024. Other ISS partners, the European Space Agency (ESA ), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA ) have not yet confirmed that they will participate on the orbital laboratory through this extended period.
Takashi Hamazaki of JAXA revealed that the Japanese government has yet to make a final decision about extending their efforts on the ISS project. Japan wants to prolong its participation in the program, but the issue is still under scrutiny.
In January 2014, NASA announced its intention to extend the ISS program beyond its original 2020 end date. The space agency stated it was waiting for partner agencies to receive permission from their governments. The Space Station costs several billion dollars to operate annually.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin rejected NASA’s proposal in May 2014 by saying that Russia would pull out of the program in 2020.
The ISS has been continuously occupied for more than 14 years since the arrival of Expedition 1 in November of 2000. Currently, only Russian Soyuz spacecraft deliver crews to the orbital laboratory.
On Wednesday, July 22, three Expedition 44 crew members were launched to Space Station aboard the Soyuz TMA-17M spacecraft. NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui arrived at the ISS on the following day and will remain aboard the station until late December, conducting several hundred experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.
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