WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The Obama administration's extension of the International Space Station until at least 2024 will allow NASA to complete key tasks, U.S. space officials said.
"We are hopeful and optimistic that our ISS partners will join this extension effort and thus enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory for at least another decade," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and John P. Holdren, Obama's science and technology adviser, said Wednesday in a blog posted on NASA.gov.
The ISS extension will allow NASA and the international space community to accomplish several important goals, including allow NASA to complete research activities aboard the station to support planned long-duration human missions beyond low-Earth orbit, "including our planned human mission to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s," Bolden and Holdren wrote.
"NASA has determined that research on ISS is necessary to mitigate fully 21 of the 32 human-health risks anticipated on long-duration missions," they said. "A related critical function of ISS is testing the technologies and spacecraft systems necessary for humans to safely and productively operate in deep space. Extending ISS until 2024 will give us the necessary time to bring these systems to maturity."
The extension also will expand "the broader flow of societal benefits from research on the station," the blog said.
"Research conducted on the ISS has already resulted in a number of discoveries with significant medical and industrial implications," Bolden and Holdren said.
Also, NASA and its private-sector partners will have time to shift cargo and crew transportation to the commercial-space industry so NASA can "increase its focus on developing the next-generation heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule necessary for deep-space exploration," they said.
"The ISS is a unique facility that offers enormous scientific and societal benefits," Bolden and Holdren wrote. "The Obama administration's decision to extend its life until at least 2024 will allow us to maximize its potential, deliver critical benefits to our nation and the world, and maintain American leadership in space."