July 27, 2011 in Nation/World

Space station set to plunge into ocean in 2020

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This image provided by NASA shows the International Space Station soon after the space shuttle Atlantis and the station began their post-undocking separation Nov. 25, 2009.
(Full-size photo)

MOSCOW — A Russian space official said Wednesday that once the mammoth International Space Station is no longer needed it will be sent into the Pacific Ocean.

It’s a plan that’s long been in the works and is a step to avoid the station becoming dangerous space junk. It was supposed to plunge into the ocean as early as 2015. The U.S. recently extended its life until at least 2020, and there’s been talk of keeping it going even longer.

Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of the Russian space agency, said the orbiting outpost will be destroyed in a controlled descent to Earth “so that there is no space junk left behind.”

Russia sank its Mir space station in the Pacific in 2001 after 15 years in operation. Skylab, America’s first space station, fell from orbit in 1979 after six years in space.

The International Space Station is the biggest orbiting outpost ever built and can sometimes be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It’s now big enough for six residents.

It now consists of more than a dozen modules built by the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency.

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