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International Space Station gains US funding to extend to 2024

NASA has gained US government funding approval for the International Space Station to continue operations through 2024. All partners involved in the station must back the extension for it to take effect.

US space agency NASA said on Wednesday that it gained approval from US President Barack Obama's administration to extend funding for the International Space Station (ISS) from 2020 to 2024.

"This is a tremendous announcement for us here in the space station world," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

Other than the US, Canada, Russia, Japan and the states that make up the European Space Agency participate in the space station. These partners must support the extension for it to be implemented, however Gerstenmaier said he expected them to see the benefit of

long-term involvement

.

The $100-billion (73.7-billion-euro) outpost is the largest space lab ever built, spanning the length of a football field (357 feet, 109 meters).

Operational for the past 15 years, the ISS is maintained by a rotating crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts.

The crew gain access to the station by launching three at a time aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Following the retirement of NASA's 30-year space shuttle program in 2011, the US now uses two private companies - Orbital Sciences and SpaceX - to send supplies to the ISS.

The structure requires regular maintenance, which is done by astronauts who, wearing spacesuits, venture outside the lab. The

last such repair

was made on Christmas Eve to replace a failed ammonia pump.

hc/kms (AFP, dpa)

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