White House approves extension of space station to 2024

The extension will be welcomed by international partners but will require NASA to make serious decisions regarding its budget, which will still have to be approved by Congress.
By Ananth Baliga  |  Jan. 8, 2014 at 10:20 AM
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NASA plans to announce this week White House approval to extend operations aboard the International Space Station another four years, taking its mission to 2024, according to documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel.

NASA was instrumental in pressuring the White House to approve the extension. Despite this endorsement from the Obama administration, the space station and NASA's budget will still have to be approved by Congress.

The four-year extension is slated to cost NASA $3 billion per year. That would account for nearly a sixth of NASA's budget, which is currently $17 billion.

The announcement will be used to reassure international partners doubting U.S. commitment to the $100 billion space laboratory. NASA insists that the space station is critical to the future of space exploration.

"Arriving at this decision in a timely and coordinated fashion will, hopefully, prove beneficial to our international partners as they struggle with decisions on funding for their space programs," NASA Chief Charlie Bolden reportedly wrote in an email to NASA and administration officials.

NASA at present has to buy a ride on Russian spacecrafts to ferry astronauts to the space station, at a cost of $1.7 billion through 2017. They are hoping to use private companies for this service in the future, bringing back a large portion of this money.

Continued use of the space station will also reassure partners who have invested money for scientific research. The space station is at its most productive right now, after little research was conducted in its early years.

[Orlando Sentinel]

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