Russia to Stay on ISS for Four Years Longer Than Planned
After months of rising tensions and threats to pull out of the International Space Station as early as 2020, Russia's space agency has officially announced that they will stay on the ISS until 2024, at which time they will withdraw and build their own space station.
Late Tuesday night, the Russian space agency released a statement that detailed plans for their space program up to 2030, which "provides for the use of the ISS until 2024." In 2024, they will remove Russian modules from the station, rendering it useless, and use those modules in order to build their own space station. According to the statement, they would like to build an independent space station in order to "ensure Russia's guaranteed access to space."
The fact that Russia is pulling out of the ISS will have profound ramifications for American space exploration, as we do not currently have our own shuttle program. As of now, Russia is the only country that can shuttle astronauts from Earth to the space station. That being said, this announcement comes as something of a relief, as Russia had previously threatened to pull out as early as 2020, four years before NASA planned to stop using the ISS, as a retaliation for US sanctions.
As the Russian modules are essential to the ISS life support systems, in all likelihood this will mean the end of the ISS in 2024. NASA has a backup module, but there's no word on whether they plan to use it to extend the ISS's life.
Russia is also currently reviewing their lunar mission, which will begin in the near future with unmanned missions to orbit the Moon and land on its surface. "Close to 2030, the plan is to move over to manned flights to the Moon."