The International Space Station is a long-term, sustainable place for humans beyond Earth. It has also changed a lot since astronauts first used it as a temporary home, with the space station adding new modules over time, providing more space for science and a comfortable environment for all kinds of creatures. Today, a pair of Russian cosmonauts will work outside the International Space Station in preparation for the addition of a brand new module.
The new module, nicknamed “Nauka” (“science” in Russian), will be attached to a large orbital laboratory as a new place for researchers to work. Preparations for the upcoming installation included checking the airlocks used to secure the module to the entire space station and ensuring that everything outside the spacecraft was working properly. In recent months, concerns have been raised about the leak of spacecraft on the Russian side, but now they appear to have been cleared so that the next construction can go ahead as planned.
The Nauka module will be a replacement for the Russian Pirs module, but the old module will not be retired for some time. The Nauka capsule is expected to launch to the International Space Station in April next year, but astronauts will have to make multiple spacewalks to “make room” for the expected arrival of the new module, CNN reported.
The International Space Station has been orbiting the Earth for more than two decades, most of which has been occupied by humans. Questions have long been raised about the station’s future viability, but NASA, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Research and Development Agency and Russia’s Russian space agency group have all said they will continue to use the spacecraft as a useful tool for carrying research. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that the space station is likely to have a new life cycle. The International Space Station is expected to continue operating at least until the end of the 2020s, but the station’s life span is likely to exceed that date. Missions to the Moon and even Mars may be a high priority for space agencies at that time, but the ability to conduct research in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station also seems invaluable and cannot be abandoned without ready-made alternatives.