The future of the International Space Station (ISS) is uncertain. The 2024 funding deadline for the ISS is drawing near.
What happens to it after that is yet to be determined. The latest hearing on the fate of the ISS was held late in March where the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology heard from four space experts on the merits of continuing the U.S.’s participation in ISS—instead of abandoning the station to pursue other goals with NASA’s funding.
The ISS currently claims as much as half of NASA’s human space exploration budget. Efforts to send humans to Mars or asteroids also depend on the same allowance.
Image Source: ESA
Holding Space Exploration Back?
The debate on whether or not NASA should be spending several billions on the ISS provokes a range of opinions. Proponents of new projects and space travel are quick to point out that much of the station’s annual funding goes to cargo operations that take supplies two hundred and twenty miles above the Earth and back.
For those who are ready to see and participate in a new age of boundary-breaking exploration, ISS supply transport may not feel like much of a return for such a high cost.
Still More To Learn?
Those who support renewed funding for ISS argue that it plays a critical role in our understanding of micro-gravity environments. Experiments performed within the confines of the station allows us to explore possible conditions beyond Earth but in a controlled and efficient manner.
There’s also the argument that the ISS is anything but past its prime. Although planning started in 1993 and assembly began in 1998, final modules have been incorporated as recently as August of 2016.
Space Station For Sale?
There’s yet another proposal for the future funding of the ISS. With the rise of privatized space exploration, there have been suggestions of putting the U.S.’s share up for sale to a patron who is willing and wealthy enough to finance such a project. This wouldn’t necessarily be as simple as settling on a price; a potential buyer would need to negotiate terms with Russia, Canada, Japan, and a dozen other countries as other members of the cooperative program.
With the funding deadline just seven years away, it won’t be long before we learn what’s in store for the U.S.’s ISS role. Do you think we should continue our funding, focus elsewhere, or sell our stake? Tell us what you think in the comments.