The Obama Administration is prepared to commit the money for its part of the International Space Station through 2024, according to internal documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. That would mean at least another four years in orbit for the ISS, provided future administrations follow through on the plan.
According to the Sentinel’s report, the structure itself should be viable beyond 2028, but it costs several billions of dollars a year to operate—money that NASA could clearly put to other uses. Without the money, however, the station would need to be safely deorbited, and it’s not something that could easily be replaced.
The ISS also has peripheral benefits. It keeps NASA engaged with international partners at a time when the agency is cutting back its involvement in projects like a planned robotic mission to Europa. Resupply missions have also allowed NASA to foster new commercial rocketry ventures. In the longer term, some of those will start ferrying astronauts to low-Earth orbit. The original 2020 time limit would allow the commercial ventures to do a few crewed missions, but the extra four years will provide significantly more experience.
via Ars Technica http://feeds.arstechnica.com/~r/arstechnica/index/~3/RVWAaeGO_n0/