Russian officials are calling for calm saying that the sinking of the International Space Station (ISS) in the Pacific Ocean is not a big deal, and that it would not happen anytime soon.
After startling some members of the public with statements made earlier this week about retiring the ISS in 2020 and letting it sink into ocean waters, officials with Russian Space Agency Roscosmos insist that there is no need to worry.
Seeking to clarify statements made by Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of Roscosmos, officials insist that the agency has no such plans for the International Space Station (ISS).
Russian, American, Japanese, European, and Canadian representatives of the ISS say they actually plan to use the space station well into 2028, assuming the station is still functional.
Furor had erupted after Davydov said in an interview on Russian television Wednesday that the agency had no choice but to let the ISS fall into the ocean.
"After it completes its existence, we will be forced to sink the ISS. It cannot be left in orbit, it's too complex, too heavy an object, it can leave behind lots of rubbish," Davydov said, according to a transcript published on the space agency’s website.
Officials insist Davydov's statements were taken out of context. However, his statements were echoed Thursday by the Russian space agency’s press secretary, Anna Vedishscheva, who noted the station’s retirement would be in 2020.
"The partners have agreed to continue the ISS operation until 2020. The partners will also approve an extended period of the ISS use and the procedure of its disposal. The only way to dispose of the station is to sink it," Vedishcheva told the Interfax News Agency.
Space agency partners have not revealed what might happen to the International Space Station once 2028 comes and goes. However, sinking the structure into ocean waters would not be unusual; the former space station, Mir, was also disposed of in the Pacific Ocean in 2001 after 15 years of service.
The ISS is funded for the next nine years, according to CBS News space analyst William Harwood, and would need more funding if space agency partners plan to use the station beyond 2020.
"With something as large as the station, they'll do a targeted re-entry to make sure it doesn't rain down on, say, New York,” Harwood told the network.
With NASA’s space fleet now officially retired, Russia is currently the only agency partner capable of transporting astronauts to and from the ISS.
The ISS orbits 220 miles above Earth and is used by NASA and other space agency partners to conduct experiments.