Now that the space shuttle fleet is out of service, the Russians are in charge when it comes to getting people to the International Space Station and back — so when a Russian space official talks about sinking the station as early as 2020, that may sound ominous to some ears.
In reality, it's not that big a deal: Vitaly Davydov, deputy director of Russia's Federal Space Agency, was simply stating current policy when he told TV interviewers that the station would be in use until 2020 or so, and that it would have to be taken out of orbit when it's obsolete.
The interview from "Good Morning Russia" ("Utro Rossii") caused a stir when a Russian-language transcript turned up on the space agency's website, but don't panic: If anything, the International Space Station will be in operation well after 2020. Russia, NASA and the other partners in the 16-nation venture are looking into extending the station's lifetime to 2028 — that is, if they can verify that its components will still be in working order that far into the future.
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