The International Space Station (ISS) is showing its age. The space station is made up of multiple modules, each with different points of connection and manufacturing dates, but when one fails, there’s a chance the rest will suffer. This isn’t like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, where the ISS grew at an extraordinary rate without significant incident, eventually reaching a size too massive to stay in orbit around Earth.
Instead, we’re dealing with an ISS that’s still small enough that a single Russian research module can dock and move the whole station with one accidental thruster ignition. That’s exactly what happened with Nauka at the end of July. It is not clear if that incident and what’s been reported this week are directly related in any way other than showing the fragility of the station from more angle than one.
A report this week from the RIA news agency (via Reuters) revealed a set of new cracks in a segment of the ISS. “Superficial fissures have been found in some places on the Zarya module,” said chief engineer of rocket and space corporation Energia Vladimir Solovyov.
“This is bad,” said Solovyov, “and suggests that the fissures will begin to spread over time.”
ESA head Josef Ashbacher also spoke with RIA Novosti this week, suggesting that Russia hopes to continue working with the International Space Station beyond their current agreements with the rest of the organizations involved with the ISS. Ashabacher spoke with RIA Novosti at the 36th Space Symposium.
“NASA is expected to make a decision soon on whether the ISS will be extended or not,” said Ashbakher. “From a European perspective, we would welcome an extension, as we consider the ISS a very important research laboratory.” [Roughly translated from original Russian.] Take a peek at the timeline below to see other recent updates from the ISS – and get the tape!