January 8, 2014
White House Gives ISS Four More Years Of Funding
[ Watch the Video: Government Gives ISS More Funding ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The US space agency said on Wednesday that four years of additional funding for the space station has been approved, which will extend the life of the orbiting outpost until at least 2024. The extra funds will cost $3 billion a year, which is a little over 20 percent of NASA’s $17 billion budget.
"There are a lot of systems that we really need to test on the ISS," William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at NASA, told reporters in a press conference. "When we commit to distances as far away as Mars, we better really understand that system, because we don't have the option to pull things back."
This isn’t the first time the space station has been given more time under the Obama administration, which originally helped to extend its life until 2020. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote in an email to NASA and administration officials praising the decision of the White House.
"Arriving at this decision in a timely and coordinated fashion will, hopefully, prove beneficial to our international partners as they struggle with decisions on funding for their space programs," Bolden said in the email, according to the LA Times.
Pumping a little more financial life into the space station would allow both NASA and its partners to recoup some of the large up-front investment in the ISS because so little science was done in the early years of the orbiting space laboratory.
"ISS is now in its most productive era of utilization for scientific research and technology demonstration,” read a NASA statement.
Research projects on the space station include Earth observation, the study of cosmic rays and the effect of spaceflight on astronaut health. However, many other scientists also use the orbiting outpost as a way to perform unique experiments not possible on Earth. The Orbital Sciences Cygnus supply spacecraft launching later this month will bring 23 student experiments to the space station, including an experiment designed to observe ants in space.
The Ants in Space experiment will examine the behavior of these mighty insects by comparing groups living on Earth to those in space. The experiment will look at whether ant interactions are dependent upon the number of ants in an area, adding to existing knowledge of swarm intelligence.
Another experiment launching this month to the space station is the Antibiotic Effectiveness in Space (AES-1) investigation, which will be looking at why bacteria become drug-resistant in space. This study will not only have implications for research on drug-resistant strains of bacteria on Earth, but also for future long-term missions.