Former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden indicated in the past that the International Space Station has an expiry date of 2028. I strongly believe that all efforts should be made to ensure that it lasts until 2033 so that the infrastructure and Human Resources behind the station is operational during the first year of NASA’s mission to Mars. It could be used as a communications vessel and much of the equipment on board could be beneficial during the early parts of NASA’s Mars mission. Furthermore, it would ensure steady and stable international cooperation in space among the many nations in the world. What we find on Mars may surprise us in 2033 and could change the way we do politics, economics and sociology. Russia already has plans to possibly team up with China in space exploration efforts and thus the international order of nations cooperating peacefully in space could be threatened by an east and west political divide.
The International Space Station is perhaps one of the few developments in space stations and exploration in the 21st century as this century has been largely dominated by discoveries made by telescopes rather than human space exploration and space station construction. The Kepler telescope was instrumental in this era offering insights into star systems light years away that could possibly contain alien life. The International Space station signifies a post Cold War era that had more cooperation among space agencies that prior to it’s development was dominated by an ideological divide between Communism and Democracy.
The International Space Station is also a demonstration of what top notch human engineering in space can accomplish. It showcases our abilities as a species to go beyond nationalism and racial division and unite behind a common purpose. It has also captured the public’s eye with various video footage being shot there and put on the internet by space agencies and astronaut’s. It is a beacon of hope to many that dream of a more prosperous and humane future, a future in which we can be proud of what we have accomplished this century. The strategic imperative of a 2033 expiration date rather than 2028 is critical in ensuring a smooth transition to developing a possible human settlement on Mars which would greatly change the landscape of space exploration and our sense as a species as to what “home” really means.