In the history of the International Space Station (ISS) there has been a continuous human presence in space. But word now comes that the space station could be abandoned in November as Russia grounds its Soyuz rockets. A failure to launch a Progress cargo vehicle on board a Soyuz- U rocket last week resulted in the rocket and its supply of highly toxic fuel to crash in Siberia. While Russian engineers review the disaster, a planned mission in September to change half of the current 6-person crew of the ISS may be delayed. In a worse case scenario, come November, all six crew members will use the two Soyuz capsule lifeboats to evacuate the space station. Now that NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has retired its fleet of space shuttles, there are no other options as of yet to transport cargo and personnel to the ISS. The private firm of SpaceX is to start flights to the space station late next year for delivering cargo only.
The $100+ Billion dollar space station was expected to operate full time until 2020, when the International Space Station will fall to Earth in a controlled crash into the Pacific Ocean. This latest fly in the ointment, however, may call into question any further plans in the future for a replacement space station. As it is, several private companies are already looking at building their own for use as tourist hotels. The age of space tourism could lead to an end to government-run space projects.
Russia has led the way when it comes to orbital space stations. Their early Salyut program placed several into Earth orbit. The Mir Space Station operated for 15 years. This is why the Russians are the ones managing the International Space Station, which could be abandoned in November. For nearly the last 11 out of the 13 year history of the International Space Station (ISS), there has been an uninterrupted presence of humans in space. But as Russia grounds its Soyuz rockets after last week′s Progress cargo was a failure to launch, and since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet, there is nothing available immediately to resupply the ISS with fuel, oxygen, water and food. Late next year, the private company SpaceX will start flights to the space station to deliver cargo. Until then, we are totally dependent on the Russians.