Two days after the White House announced the extension of the International Space Station mission to 2024, experts from around the world gathered Jan. 10 at the Heads of Space Agencies Summit in Washington, D.C., to discuss its future regarding technology and its relationship with private corporations
With China planning to launch a space station in 2020, members of different national space agencies discussed what should be done with the ISS and how the international community should handle the Chinese station.
“It’s important that we pass information from one station to another and vice versa,” said Enrico Saggese, president of the Italian Space Agency.
As for the future of the ISS, experts have a wide range of ideas. Saggese suggested cultivating more plant life on the station and investing in finding fuel on other celestial bodies to make the station more independent from Earth.
Others, including Alexey Krasnov, director of Human Spaceflight Roscosmos, advocated trading technologies between nations that will help in the next steps of space exploration.
“We need to select the most mature technologies to apply for the next missions and test them in the ISS,” he said.
Countries with budding space exploration programs such as Vietnam and Nigeria aimed their sights at creating new economic models to fund their space programs.
“We already use the space station, but only for small experiments,” said Pham Anh Tuan, director of the Vietnam National Satellite Center. ”We need funding.”
Private space flight companies such as SpaceX have given governments another option when resupplying and repairing spacecraft. The ISS is more sustainable when there are duplicate capabilities, according to Krasnov. If government craft are unable to reach the ISS due to mechanical problems, private companies could be hired to provide emergency supplies or rescues.
The international community has used the space station for a myriad of experiments that not only benefit space exploration, but life for those on the ground, said John Elbon, vice president of the space exploration division at Boeing.
Experiments conducted on ISS have furthered research in osteoporosis and muscular dystrophy, according to Elbon.
ISS has been continuously inhabited since 2000 and has hosted 204 individuals.
“The space station presents a viable model of what we can do together,” Elbon said.