What went way, way up must come way, way down.
After more than 30 years as the world’s cosmic crash pad, NASA has said that the International Space Station will be “de-orbited” and come hurtling down the 227 miles to Earth’s surface at a rate of 17,000 miles per hour in January 2031.
The 356-foot wide galactic vessel will likely come down in a fiery blaze as it passes through Earth’s atmosphere.
But don’t worry: It certainly won’t come down on any people. Rather, it will meet its watery demise in the South Pacific.
The space agency’s recent budget estimates report showed plans to decommission the ISS by 2030 before it splashes down at Point Nemo, about 1,677 miles (2,700 kilometers) away from land on all sides.
Sometimes called the “oceanic pole of inaccessibility” or the “South Pacific Uninhabited Area,” the marine zone has for decades been used as a graveyard for old space equipment, such as satellites and rocket debris.
NASA called the waters of Point Nemo “pretty much the farthest place from any human civilization you can find.”
As far as a replacement down the road, there won’t be any new and improved ISS; rather, NASA intends to work with commercial spaceflight ventures to board their astronauts during long-haul stints in orbit — while saving an estimated $1.3 billion in just the first year after vacating the ISS.
Robyn Gatens, the director of the International Space Station at NASA headquarters, said the organization’s goal is to “lay the groundwork for a commercial future in low-Earth orbit.”
Phil McAlister, the director of commercial space at NASA headquarters, also added in a statement, “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.”
The agency added that money saved on space station maintenance may “be applied to NASA’s deep space exploration initiatives, allowing the agency to explore further and faster into deep space.”
Last year, a Russian space official warned of small cracks in the ISS structure that engineers fear may become too big — and expensive — to repair to maintain the structure going forward. ISS was “examining the recent technical issues aboard the Russian segment,” NASA said in its report.
The space station, about the size of a football field, has continuously housed astronauts since the year 2000, though it was originally intended to operate for only 15 years.