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  • After over 20 years in orbit, our beloved International Space Station is set to retire in 2030.

  • But remember please don’t shoot the messenger here!

  • Like its epic debut, the ISS’s final performance will be just as mind-blowing.

  • So how exactly do you decommission a football-field-sized structure without hitting anything?

  • But before we get to that, I know you must all be wondering why NASA and its partners decided to decommission the ISS now.

  • Well, the ISS is starting to show its age.

  • I mean think about it:

  • It’s been in a constant state of operation since November, 2000.

  • It orbits the Earth every 90 minutes traveling at 8 km per second, and has hosted over 3000 research investigations from 108 countries.

  • Not to mention it’s in one of the most dangerous environments known to humankind, in constant danger of being struck by debris!

  • Based on evaluations, the ISS is expected to continue operations until 2028.

  • Some major reasons for retirement were the operational cost, which is roughly 4 billion dollars per year, and limited onboard capabilities.

  • On top of that, the ISS requires multiple reboost maneuvers each year to keep it from crashing back down to Earth.

  • So in 2030, when it’s finally time to decommission the ISS, why can’t we let it just float out in space forever?

  • Well there’s a long list of reasons we don’t want that.

  • One of them is because of the Kessler Syndrome, which is the concept that even the smallest fragment of space debris traveling at speeds up to 28 million kilometers per hour can be a catalyst to a much larger chain reaction.

  • But luckily, engineers have a plan to avoid that catastrophic domino effect by harnessing the Earth’s gravitational pull.

  • By slowly reducing the operational altitude of the ISS over several years, engineers will strategically position its reentry point over a region known as the South Pacific Oceanic Uninhabited Area, aka, where satellites go to die.

  • Known as Point Nemo, this area in the Pacific Ocean is quite literally in the middle of nowhere.

  • Believe it or not, the closest humans to Point Nemo are the crew members of the ISS right now!

  • But the entire satellite will not crash into the ocean, in fact, experts expect most of the station to burn up in the atmosphere during reentry, with only select parts making it to Point Nemo.

  • And this location is optimal because it's within the South Pacific Gyre, a large system of rotating ocean currents that keeps this region fairly absent of oceanic life, in case anyone was concerned about any sea life.

  • But the ISS won’t be alone!

  • It will join over 250 others dating back to NASA’s Skylab in 1979 and Russia’s MIR Space Station in 2001.

  • This is the start of a new era for space exploration and crewed missions beyond the Earth’s orbit.

  • NASA hopes to maintain operations in low Earth orbit by introducing a new private space station before the ISS retires.

  • In early 2021, NASA selected three companies, Blue Origin, Nanoracks LLC, and Northrop Grumman, to develop the next generation of commercial space stations.

  • Nanoracks currently has their sights set on 2027 as the first flight of Starlab, their new commercial space station.

  • As for the ISS, the world is deeply saddened to see what some would call their first experience with human space travel.

  • But all good things come to an end no matter how bitter-sweet.

  • And with other projects not too far behind, it seems like were already headed toward continuing the legacy of the ISS by going even further than weve ever been before.

  • So what was your favorite thing about the ISS?

  • Let us know down in the comments.

  • Make sure to subscribe and thanks for watching.

After over 20 years in orbit, our beloved International Space Station is set to retire in 2030.

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The ISS Will Crash to Earth Soon, But Why?

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    Summer posted on 2022/09/04
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