NASA intends to keep operating the International Space Station until the end of 2030, after which the ISS would be crashed into a remote part of the Pacific Ocean known as Point Nemo, according to newly published plans outlining its future.
In the International Space Station Transition Report, NASA said the plan was for the ISS to fall to Earth in an area known as the South Pacific Oceanic Uninhabited Area.
Named after the submarine sailor in Jules Verne’s novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” Point Nemo is the point in the ocean that is farthest from land and has been a watery grave for many other spacecraft.
The area is approximately 3,000 miles off of New Zealand’s eastern coast and 2,000 miles north of Antarctica and it’s estimated that space-faring nations such as the US, Russia, Japan and European countries have sunk more than 263 pieces of space debris there since 1971.
The report said the ISS would perform thrusting maneuvers that would ensure “safe atmospheric entry.”
Launched in 2000, the space lab has orbited 227 nautical miles above Earth with more than 200 astronauts from 19 different countries enjoying stints aboard, representing a continuous human presence in space.
NASA said that commercially operated space platforms would replace the ISS as a venue for collaboration and scientific research.
“The private sector is technically and financially capable of developing and operating commercial low-Earth orbit destinations, with NASA’s assistance. We look forward to sharing our lessons learned and operations experience with the private sector to help them develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective destinations in space,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial space at NASA Headquarters in a statement.
“The report we have delivered to Congress describes, in detail, our comprehensive plan for ensuring a smooth transition to commercial destinations after retirement of the International Space Station in 2030.”