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WASHINGTON, January 10, 4:30 /ITAR-TASS/. The United States called for more countries to join the International Space Station (ISS) project and said it was prepared to cooperate with them under the NASA project aimed at preventing the asteroid threat to Earth.
Speaking at the International Space Exploration Forum (ISEF) on Thursday, January 9, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns recalled that the ISS programme had been launched 15 years ago by the space agencies of the U.S., Russia, Western Europe, Japan, and Canada, and now involved more than 80 countries.
“The International Space Station - the most complex cooperative scientific and engineering project in history - has welcomed more than 80 countries to participate in its research. Rather than pursuing disparate paths of discovery, 12 national space agencies have developed a shared roadmap that will lead us to human missions to the surface of Mars,” Burns said.
He stressed that “the Station remains the leading space platform for global research and development. The Station is the foundation for future human exploration to an asteroid, the Moon, and ultimately Mars. And it is a lasting testament to how much more we can accomplish together than we can on our own.”
He did not say which countries could join the ISS project, but at the beginning of his speech mentioned China and India. The former became the third country to complete a successful landing on the moon, and the latter launched its Mars Orbiter Mission.
Earlier this month, the U.S. reiterated its commitment to the ISS project until 2024.
NASA officials said the decision had been made after studying the technical capabilities of the Station’s equipment. Its operation will not require additional budget funding, they added.
William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said the U.S. was committed to its further space exploration plans and stressed that the ISS foreign partners were set to continue joint work as well.
“We are hopeful and optimistic that our ISS partners will join this extension effort and thus enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory for at least another decade. The extension of ISS operation will allow NASA and the international space community to accomplish a number of important goals,” Charles Bolden, Administrator of NASA, and John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said.
They stressed that “the ISS is also playing an increasingly important role in the study ofthe Earth and its changing climate. In the next few years, the ISS will host several Earth- and space-science instruments, including the Stratospheric Aerosols and Gases Experiment (SAGE III), the RapidSCAT ocean winds measurement instrument, the Orbital Carbon Observatory (OCO-3), the Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass (CREAM) experiment, the Calorimetric Electron Telescope, and others. Ensuring the stability and availability of the ISS through 2024 will instil confidence in the science community that the ISS platform will be available for important, long-term research endeavours.”
Bolden and Holdren said that “the ISS is a unique facility that offers enormous scientific and societal benefits. The Obama Administration’s decision to extend its life until at least 2024 will allow us to maximise its potential, deliver critical benefits to our Nation and the world, and maintain American leadership in space.”
On January 9, the new American cargo ship Cygnus was launched to the ISS aboard the Antares carrier rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia. Its rendezvous with the ISS is scheduled for Sunday, January 12.
The cargo ship is carrying more than 1.3 tonnes of various supplies to the ISS, including food, water, spare parts, and research equipment.