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Mon, Apr 13, 2009

International Space Station May Get Five-Year Extension

US And Foreign Partners Agree In Principle To Keep ISS Operating Until 2020

Originally planned to remain in operation until 2015, the International Space Station has recently received multi-national support from government and industry officials who believe the ISS program is worth keeping alive an additional five years.

Taking two decades and over $100 billion to design and build, the consensus among US and foreign partners is that the station has many more useful years to give, both as an orbiting space laboratory and from a structural standpoint, the Wall Street Journal said.

The idea of extending the ISS program is not a new one. As early as the spring of 2007, former National Aeronautics and Space Administration administrator Michael Griffin alerted US science and aerospace concerns that such an extension was probable. More recently, a bill authorizing NASA to draw up such a plan was passed by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Last week, a NASA spokesman said cost estimates are being developed to extend ISS operations through 2020 "in the event the [Obama] administration decided to propose" the budgeting to do so, and the agency "continues to take no steps that would preclude extending station operations."

A probable hitch in the plan is deciding where the additional funding will come from. Extension of the program could cost upwards of $10 billion to continue utilizing the ISS from 2015 to 2020, likely meaning that other space programs would suffer cuts unless Congress approves a larger budget for NASA to work with.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/

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