NASA Wins White House Approval to Extend Life of Space Station
WASHINGTON — The world’s most expensive science project — the $100-billion-plus International Space Station — is poised to get four more years in orbit. According to documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, NASA plans to announce this week that it has White House approval to extend the station’s operations through 2024.
The decision follows years of pressure by top NASA officials, who consider the station a crucial steppingstone to future exploration. But a four-year extension probably would cost NASA about $3 billion a year from 2021 to 2024. That’s a major chunk of the agency’s annual budget of about $17 billion, and a longer mission could force NASA to make tough financial decisions in the future.
The Obama administration’s approval, however, doesn’t guarantee that the station, which has been continuously occupied since 2000, will survive past its current end date of 2020. At some point, Congress must approve a NASA budget that includes an extension of the station’s life. The plan also must get the support of whoever wins the White House in 2016, though the backing of President Obama now might make it harder for the next administration to say no.