TITUSVILLE, Fla. - The International Space Station is celebrating its 25th year in orbit this week, but its time is running out.
NASA says the station will need to be decommissioned by 2030, and the race is on to figure out what’s next.
For 25 years, the floating lab has been a space for science and a home for hundreds of astronauts.
"I never would have imagined what it would accomplish, so certainly it will be sad to see it go," said Dr. Don Platt who runs the Spaceport Education Center at Florida Tech.
Decades ago, Platt helped build parts of the 356-foot-wide laboratory, and NASA is ready for something new by the next decade.
"We’re six years away from it right now. That time is going to go real fast. We should almost be bending metal to build those new parts right now," said Dr. Ken Kremer who’s a researcher and space journalist who says he supports the transition but is worried about the rapidly approaching deadline.
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Kremer says he’s concerned the United States could lose its presence in space if there isn’t a plan in place to replace the ISS soon.
"If these commercial space stations don’t come online in 2030, it will be the end of our earth presence in low earth orbit," Kremer added.
Other space experts are optimistic that replacing the ISS will open even more doors for private companies.
"There’s so many companies that are poised to occupy this void for commercial space, just on the horizon," said Mark Marquette who’s the community liaison for the American Space Museum in Titusville.
Marquette says space is on the verge of an economic explosion, with space tourism and manufacturing moving off the earth and above our heads.
"There will be ones for science, pharmacies will put them up, factories," Marquette concluded.
NASA is estimating the de-orbit process to cost around $1 billion to bring the space station back to Earth. It will have to be broken apart into smaller segments before it falls and burns up in the atmosphere.