The end of the International Space Station will merge into space geographic states

Twenty years after astronauts migrated full-time, the International Space Station is nearing its end, opening up a new geopolitical landscape over Earth.

Why it’s important: The end of the program will force the station to reconnect with its partner countries, including China and others, at new spaceflight locations. They may instead focus on the moon – or co-operate in a contest.

Game mode: U.S. The space station could provide support by the end of 2024, but NASA and its partners plan to extend its lifespan by 2028.

  • Anyway, the countries involved in the ISS program are already moving forward to cooperate in NASA’s Artemis Moon mission, which is expected to bring people to the lunar surface by 2024.
  • The European Space Agency last week signed on to help build a small gateway space station that will orbit the moon and act as a jumping-point f point for surface missions.
  • Japan and Canada, the nations that also cooperate on the ISS, are also working on the gateway.

Conspiracy: The space station has been in constant orbit, connecting the US, Russia and about a dozen other countries to their space ambitions.

  • But the end of the ISS could pull the US and Russia apart.
  • It is not yet clear where Russia will land – one of the biggest supporters of the ISS when it comes to space station cooperation.
  • Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, has already spoken out against the gateway station and called Artemis Moon’s plans “US-centric.”

Between the lines: China’s ambition to build its own station around the second wrinkled Earth in the post-ISS geopolitical landscape is expected to come around nil when ISS ends.

  • This would allow potential U.S. spacecraft. While partners may be drawn to China, some experts suggest that Russia may find new ways to cooperate with China.
  • “I don’t think Russia and China will soon become best friends. … They have their own difficulties in their relationship, but it does provide an alternative and a different option for countries that may not be able to.” And join the current ISS, ”Victoria Samson of the Secure World Foundation told me.

Big picture: Still, not everyone’s attention will turn to the moon at the end of the space station. NASA is hopeful that the private space stations under development will be used as a proven ground for space missions.

  • Those space stations can be places where nations are able to collaborate with each other.
  • “My guess is that international partners will be buying time on those commercial vehicles,” Charles Bolden, a former NASA administrator, told me.
  • Yes, but: For a smooth transition between the ISS and these private stations, companies will need to operate the space station in orbit before the end, an aggressive timeline that cannot be met.

Bottom line: Geographical states are changing in space as ISS winds break and nations begin to look to the moon as a place for collaboration.