March 11, 2010

Space Agency Leaders Meet to Discuss the ISS

Today, March 11, the leaders of all five major space agencies involved in the International Space Station (ISS) project met in the Japanese capital Tokyo, to discuss about the future of the orbital laboratory. Representatives from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (RosCosmos), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) discussed about the opportunities that the nearly-completed laboratory now has to offer scientists, after more than 10 years of construction efforts.

The station is, at this point, about 98 percent complete and is fully capable of sustaining a permanent six-member crew. It can house multiple scientific experiments at the same time, and resupply missions such as the ones conducted on the American shuttles (4 flights remaining) and the Russian Soyuz space capsules, and can easily take more up and return others too. The potential of in-orbit research, which comes with the unique possibility of conducting experiments in microgravity, should be promoted more intensely, the officials agreed at the meeting.

“The Heads of Agency reaffirmed the importance of full exploitation of the Station’s scientific, engineering, utilization, and education potential. They noted that there are no identified technical constraints to continuing ISS operations beyond the current planning horizon of 2015 to at least 2020 and that the Partnership is currently working to certify on-orbit elements through 2028. The Heads of Agency expressed their strong mutual interest in continuing operations and utilization for as long as the benefits of ISS exploitation are demonstrated,” experts at ESA write in a press release on their official website.

All of the top representatives agreed to persuade their respective governments to continue backing up the ISS project until its limits are fully realized. The officials believe that the ISS should remain operational for at least another ten years, given the amount of money, effort and sacrifice that went into constructing it. “This research will deliver benefits to humanity on Earth while preparing the way for future exploration activities beyond low-Earth orbit. The ISS will also allow the partnership to experiment with more integrated international operations and research, paving the way for enhanced collaboration on future international missions,” the ESA statement reads.



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