NASA has awarded SpaceX an $843 million contract to develop a U.S. Deorbit Vehicle to guide the aging International Space Station (ISS) back through Earth’s atmosphere for a safe and controlled reentry into the Pacific Ocean by 2030.

The ISS, a symbol of international cooperation in space, has been continuously occupied for over 23 years and is a flying laboratory around the size of a football field. Currently, only the ISS and China’s Tiangong Space Station are operating in low Earth orbit.

NASA plans to use the U.S. Deorbit Vehicle, developed by SpaceX, to guide the ISS to a safe location for controlled descent in about six years, ensuring it avoids populated areas when crashing the 430,000 kg station.

NASA will take ownership and operate the deorbit spacecraft developed by SpaceX for the crucial mission of deorbiting the ISS.

Parts of the ISS may survive reentry, and NASA plans to send them toward Point Nemo in the Pacific Ocean, away from land.

A family in Florida sued NASA for $80,000 in damages after a piece of space junk, believed to be discarded batteries from the ISS, crashed into their house in Naples, tearing through two storeys on March 8. NASA confirmed the object was part of discarded cargo expected to burn up upon re-entry and has been given six months to respond to the lawsuit.

The U.S., Japan, Canada, and nations contributing to the ESA have committed to operating the ISS through 2030, with Russia’s commitment until at least 2028. NASA finds defects and failing parts in the aging ISS, with maintenance costs already at $4 billion per year, and does not plan to reuse or preserve the entire station.

NASA plans to build a permanent base on the moon for long-duration missions. It is also supporting the development of commercial space stations to maintain a U.S. presence in low Earth orbit, with four U.S. companies intending to launch their own space labs, and the European Space Agency and others to help build Starlab.

Sources: Axios, Mashable, The Sun, Business Today, India Today, iTech Post, Digital Trends.

This article was written in collaboration with Generative AI news company Alchemiq.

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