International Space Station: Is It Heading Towards Oblivion?

Just after the sun’s zenith, when the world approaches evening twilight, the skies are sprawled with faint luminous dots that have incited the awe in its beholders from the time of Galileo. These widely recognized astronomical objects are what we call stars: aggregates of dust and gas so heavy that they collapse from degrees of gravitational attraction. This collection of superheated dust and gas has been specimens of human curiosity since time immemorial. They have become sources of inspiration for the poets, where thousands have verses dedicated to the universe; to the scientists, they are subjects of observation and study, and we haven’t unraveled much despite our modern technology.

One of the celestial objects that illuminate the night sky is the International Space Station (ISS). Visually, it is the third brightest object in the sky (along with the moon and Venus taking the top and the second spot, respectively). To the naked eye, it looks like a fast-moving plane, only that it appears to be much higher and travels thousands of miles faster!

International Space Station: How It Came to Be

The International Space Station is a joint effort and is credited to multiple nations: Canada, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States, and eleven Member States of the European Space Agency (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom). This consensus between the nations back in November 1998 led to the construction of the largest single structure human beings launched into space.

Why Is It Floating In Space?

A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions where scientific or technological research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. The International Space Station is Earth’s only microgravity (weightless) laboratory. It is 356 feet, which makes it as large as one full-sized American football field. This huge €100-billion investment floating in the sky houses a myriad of technological experiments that are constantly conducted by crew members or can be automated. The aim of this laboratory is to gather data, which can help make the state of things on Earth better. NASA believes in pushing the human presence farther into the universe; the space station supports this cause by serving as a testing ground for new technology and as an avenue where the effects of long-term space flight to humans can be studied.

International Space Station: The Current Sitch

Since 2018, more than 200 individuals have visited the International Space Station. The United States and Russia are given credit in sending more astronauts to space compared to other nations; the amount of time a nation can spend in space is mainly determined by how much resources they can contribute, usually in the form of robotics or modules. Most of the resources come from the United States (NASA), Russia (Roscosmos), and the European State Agency. The Japanese Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency also have minor contributions.

The End of an Era?

The celestial bodies we see in the vast skies look as if they’d be suspended there forever in a state of perpetual twinkling. But no matter how massive they are, like us, they will eventually burn to oblivion. The International Space Station has been stuck in gravity for 20 years, and it is deteriorating rapidly. In order to stay within orbit, it needs constant boosts of gas from visiting spacecrafts. Without the boosts, the floating laboratory will decay earlier than predicted. In an interview with NASA officials, they stated “While ISS is currently approved to operate through at least December 2024 by the international partner governments, from a technical standpoint, we have cleared ISS to fly until the end of 2028.” There are no definite plans for the Space Station at the moment. It could be deorbited or repurposed for future space stations.

Photo Sources:

Cover Photo – NASA
Photo #1 – Twitter
Photo #2 – Pixabay
Photo #3 – Pixabay