While the International Space Station will be around for a few more years yet, in January 2031 it will begin one last journey to its final resting place at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
The plans, which were revealed this week by NASA, mark the end of an era for what is certainly the most ambitious and successful space station that humanity has ever built.
Ever since the first module was launched all the way back in 1998, the station has not only helped to advance our understanding of space, but has also paved the way for numerous scientific discoveries while also helping to benefit international relations between dozens of countries along the way.
It will ultimately end up in what has become known as the “Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility” – a remote region of the South Pacific known for its use as a cemetery for old satellites and spacecraft.
It is unclear whether there will ever be another orbiting platform quite like the ISS again – especially given the rise in private companies launching their own rockets and space missions.
In recent years, several countries – including Russia and China – have been moving towards building their own dedicated stations, while there are also plans for a space station in orbit around the Moon.
“We look forward to sharing our lessons learned and operations experience with the private sector to help them develop safe, reliable and cost-effective destinations in space,” said NASA’s Phil McAlister.
Whatever happens, though, the ISS will go down in history as a hugely important stepping stone in humanity’s ongoing journey towards the stars.