International Space Station Near Completion, May Not Be Around for Long

The international space station, which has been under construction for more than a decade, is nearly complete. In some senses, it is also nearly dead.

The Washington Post said NASA will "de-orbit" the space station
in 2016. That means the station will fall out of orbit, become a fireball and then crash into the ocean.

So far, taxpayers have spent about $100 billion on the international space station. The Post reported on the station, saying that many are criticizing the de-orbit plan:

"Although there is no official lobbying going on to extend the mission, NASA is conducting a thorough review of the station to see what it would take to certify it as operational through the late 2020s, [NASA's space station program manager, Michael T. Suffredini] said. Even in the vacuum of space, things break down, get old, wear out.

"Critics have long derided the orbiting laboratory as a boondoggle. Originally called Space Station Freedom during the Reagan years, it became the international space station when the United States lured Russia into a partnership in 1993, agreeing to alter the orbit of the station to make it pass over the Russian-run space complex in Kazakhstan. That agreement helped keep Russian scientists and engineers employed at a time when the United States feared they would become rogue agents in a chaotic world.

"The rap on the space station has always been that it was built primarily to give the space shuttle somewhere to go. Now, with the shuttle being retired at the end of 2010, the station is on the spot. U.S. astronauts will be able to reach the station only by getting rides on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft."

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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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