The Biden administration yesterday announced that it has committed NASA to operating the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030, a six year extension to the previous end date of 2024.
Today’s abrupt announcement on a federal holiday comes one day after Biden and Putin had a “serious and substantive” telephone conversation about the situation in Ukraine where Russian troops are massed at the border. Biden has said that if Russia invades Ukraine the United States and its allies will respond with more economic sanctions. A Russian official told reporters later that Putin warned Biden that any such sanctions “could result in a ‘complete rupture’ of relations” between the two countries, according to the New York Times.
…Asked why the ISS extension was announced today and if it is related to the Biden-Putin call, a NASA spokesperson told SpacePolicyOnline.com only that it has “been in the works for months.”
A White House commitment to 2030 falls short of setting the date in law, but demonstrates U.S. intentions at least as long as Biden is President. Whether the other partners, especially Russia, agree will be interesting to watch. ESA’s Director General, Josef Aschbacher, welcomed the news, but it will be the 11 ESA members who participate in the program who make the decision.
The article gives a good overview of the political issues, and notes accurately that it will be very difficult to operate the station if Russia and the U.S. part ways and Russia leaves the partnership.
What the article did not mention is the fragile state of some of Russia’s modules. Both Roscosmos and NASA know that the Zvezda module, the second oldest on ISS, is showing very worrisome signs of aging, including many stress fractures that have caused small airleaks. The Russians themselves have admitted that the module is failing, and have added that because of this fact the Putin government has begun work on a new and independent Russian station.
It is unclear if ISS could function if Zvezda became unusable. At a minimum its capabilities will be reduced. At worst it might not be safe to occupy.
The Biden administration and NASA can extend ISS on paper as much as they want, but reality suggests that it will be a dangerous challenge to keep the station running until 2030. The real solution is to get as many private commercial American stations launched in the next few years, so that when Zvezda fails, there will be viable options to ISS.
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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space
, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.
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“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.
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