Russia to de-orbit International Space Station

July 27, 2011 - 4:44 PM

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia plans to de-orbit the mammoth International Space Station in a controlled descent into the Pacific in 2020, a top space official said Wednesday.

Deputy head of Russia's federal space agency Roscosmos Vitaly Davydov said that the station "cannot be left in orbit" after it stops operation.

He said in a web-posted statement that the station will have to be de-orbited in a "planned crash so that there is no space junk left behind."

The colossal station that cost billions is the biggest orbiting outpost ever built and can sometimes be seen from the Earth with the naked eye.

It now consists of more than a dozen modules built by the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency.

Russia sank its Mir space station in the Pacific in 1998 after five years in operation.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects plans)