The International Space Station is one of the greatest milestones in human history. And yes, I know that this phrase is usually completed by circumscribing it to engineering, science, space exploration, etc., but the truth is that, in truth, it transcends them to become something that all humanity she should be proud of, and that she should serve as an example of how far one can go when moving in the right direction.
With the launch of the Zaryá module in November 1998, the first step was taken in the construction of a collaborative project never seen before, and only two years later it entered service for the first time. During all these years many remarkable moments have been produced and, although with problems, to this day it is still in orbit, at a height of 408 kilometers above the Earth’s surface and moving at a speed of 7.66 kilometers per second (27,600 kilometers per hour).
In recent months we have learned of multiple problems, generally related to external objects, from the position changes that have had to be carried out to avoid collisions, to the accident suffered by the Soyuz MS-22, which has seriously endangered part of the crew by leaving them without a “lifeboat”. However, not all the problems are related to what is outside the International Space Station, the truth is that this month of November will mark 25 years since the Zaryá module was put into orbit, and the installation is already beginning to show age.
There is still no definitive decommissioning date, but given that this will be a fairly complex operation for obvious reasons, the space agencies are already working to define the way in which the International Space Station will experience its last hours. As is evident, the facility cannot be allowed to continue orbiting once it is no longer in service, since the risks that an object of its size could cause orbiting without control are simply unassumable.
Thus, as we can read in Space, NASA is already considering how to deorbit the International Space Station, with a plan that proposes 2030 as a hypothetical date. To this end, the project contemplates the creation of a tugboat, at a cost of 180 million (it is estimated that the complete cost of the operation will be around one billion dollars), which, once coupled to the Station, would be in charge of making decay its orbit in a previously defined trajectory In this way, re-entry into the atmosphere would already take care of destroying part of the International Space Station, which will fall into the ocean anyway, somewhere especially far from any populated area.