1 of 3 | This mosaic depicts the International Space Station pictured from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour during a fly-around of the orbiting lab that took place following its undocking from the Harmony module's space-facing port on Nov. 8. Photo courtesy NASA | License Photo
Dec. 31 (UPI) -- The Biden administration has extended operations on theInternational Space Station through 2030 to "enable a seamless transition" to commercial space stations, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced Friday.
Nelson said in a statement that NASA will continue working with the European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Canadian Space Agency, and Russia's StateSpace Corporation Roscosmos "to enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted."
"The United States' continued participation on the ISS will enhance innovation and competitiveness, as well as advance the research and technology necessary to send the first woman and first person of color to the Moon under NASA's Artemis program and pave the way for sending the first humans to Mars," Nelson said.
Earlier this month, NASA awarded $415 million to three companies -- Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, aerospace company Nanoracks, and aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman -- for the development of commercial destinations in space.
Nelson said in a statement at the time that the awards would stimulate the development of independent space stations for use by government and private-sector customers.
"With commercial companies now providing transportation to low-Earth orbit in place, we are partnering with U.S. companies to develop the space destinations where people can visit, live, and work, enabling NASA to continue forging a path in space for the benefit of humanity," Nelson said at the time.
In April, NASA awarded $2.89 billion to SpaceX to continue the development of the first commercial human lander, called HLS Starship, which will take astronauts to the Moon before some day taking humans to Mars.
Earlier this month, a billionaire Japanese space tourist and two other people returned to Earth after spending nearly two weeks at the International Space Station.
Yusaku Maezawa returned to Earth in Kazakhstan after becoming the first paying tourist to visit the International Space Station since 2009.