Obama Administration Approves Extending ISS to 2024 – UPDATE

Obama Administration Approves Extending ISS to 2024 – UPDATE

UPDATE, January 9, 2014:  This update adds links to the joint Holdren/Bolden blog post and other reactions to the decision, along with additional information.

ORIGINAL STORY, January 8, 2014:  NASA announced today (January 8) that the Obama Administration has approved extending the International Space Station (ISS) to at least 2024, four years beyond the current deadline.

During a hastily arranged media teleconference at 12:30 pm ET, NASA Associate Administrator for Communications David Weaver said that NASA began notifying Congress of the decision yesterday and so far the reaction is positive.  NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier said that the international partners still need time to consider whether they want to continue participating, but NASA is prepared to proceed even if not all of them agree.   He does not expect a decision from them for several years.

Gerstenmaier said there would be no budgetary impacts through 2020, since this decision affects only the years beyond that.  Funding that NASA was holding aside for potentially deorbiting the ISS (if it was discontinued in 2020) will instead be applied to operations.

White House Science Adviser John Holdren and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden issued a joint blog post later in the day about the decision this is posted on the NASA and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy websites.  The Democratic leadership of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and its Space Subcommittee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) emailed a press release supporting the decision that is not yet posted on the Democratic website of the committee.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation and the Space Foundation also issued statements of support.

The announcement came one day before a State Department-sponsored International Space Exploration Forum on January 9 that is bringing together leaders of space activities in approximately 30 countries, and two days before a “Heads of Agencies” meeting with the heads of the space agencies of more than 30 countries.  (The State Department meeting was billed as a ministerial level meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterparts, but the United States instead will be represented by Holdren and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and representation by many of the other countries will be by their space agency heads rather than ministers.) 

The Orlando Sentinel broke the story about the decision late in the evening of January 7.

During the January 8 media teleconference, Gerstenmaier cited a number of benefits of announcing now that the ISS will continue to operate for at least 10 more years, including providing more business certainty to private sector partners in the commercial cargo and commercial crew programs, to researchers who need years to get experiments ready, and to NASA itself which, he said, needs to use ISS to learn more about human adaptation to weightlessness and test technologies needed for space exploration beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).

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