The Obama administration granted the International Space Station a four-year extension on Wednesday, pledging to keep it in
terrifying, perpetual, high-speed freefall orbit around the earth through 2024.
The decision has a number of benefits. For one thing, it prevents NASA from having to plan an ISS shutdown just six years from now (a shutdown, in this case, means crashing the space station into the South Pacific) and allow them to continue doing important research such as determining how
on Earth a spider would spin a web in zero gravity.
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida said that the extension would help NASA add jobs at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The station and its related initiatives currently cost NASA about $3 billion annually. Its stay of execution isn't particularly surprising given the fact that it was only officially completed three years ago.
It also helps out private space flight contractors like SpaceX who have arrangements to deliver supplies to the ISS, and NASA is eyeing commercial taxis to transport astronauts beginning in 2017. SpaceX's contract is to the tune of $1.6 billion.
Last month, an ISS cooling pump suffered a minor malfunction, but was remedied quickly.