Partnerships between NASA and private enterprise will be essential for future space ventures.
As the life expectancy of the International Space Station (ISS) is beginning to wind down, NASA spokesman Bill Hill said the agency was planning to hand off the ISS to a commercial enterprise within the next ten years. The deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development also added the agency was “trying to develop economic development in low-earth orbit,” according to theverge.com.
The original design of the ISS was expected to last until about 2015, but the primary contractor on the station, Boeing, is studying to see if the station can continue to operate feasibly beyond the year 2028, nearly twice as long as its initial projections.
Construction on the space station began in 2000, and it has endured the most harsh conditions possible, and continues to function. Currently, the expected life of the ISS extends to 2024.
NASA’s long-term plans for a trip to Mars include working with commercial ventures in space travel, such as SpaceX.
“Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-earth orbit, we figure that will be in the mid-20s,” said Hill in a panel discussion on the US space agency’s plans.
The Obama administration has announced plans to decrease government involvement in the ISS as the station ages. Astronauts currently aboard the ISS are planning to install a new docking apparatus in the next few weeks.
NASA has long admitted they would need to partner with commercial enterprises to facilitate space travel to Mars or other space ventures, and the announcement comes a no real surprise. No details are yet available as to what such a partnership would entail, and how much the agency will need to rely on private business ventures.
What is clear, is that such ventures will be essential for the future of space travel, including the maintenance of the ISS or other such systems. Just how much the ISS fits into NASA’s plan will need to be determined.