The Russian Federal space agency has back-tracked on a decision to sink the International Space Station (ISS) in the Pacific Ocean, after an international uproar over the plan.
During an earlier TV interview in Russia, Vitaly Davydov, deputy director of the agency, said: “After the station completes its existence, we will be forced to sink it. It cannot be left in orbit, it's too complex, it's too heavy an object. It can leave behind lots of junk.”
However, now Moscow appears to have backpedaled.
"The partners have agreed to continue the ISS operation until 2020. The partners will also approve an extended period of the ISS," space agency press secretary Anna Vedishcheva told Interfax-AVN, the Russian news agency.
However, she insisted that the ultimate fate of the station will be at the bottom of the ocean.
"The only way to dispose of the station is to sink it," Vedishcheva said, a measure that will be necessary "to avoid the appearance of a large amount of space debris in orbit."
The 500-ton space station -- which comprises a partnership between Russia, NASA and sixteen other countries -- is the size of a football field, has been in operation for almost 11 years and has travelled more then 1.5-billion miles, according to NASA.
Officials at the US government were apparently puzzled by the plan to dump the space station into the blue Pacific.
Fox News in the U.S. said a congressional representative declared: "This isn't the first time I've seen Russia come out with a statement that seems to be coming out of their own stovepipes. I would give it no credence at all. NASA would have advised us ahead of time if there were any agreement along those lines.”
In fact, a spokesman for NASA told Fox: "The partnership is currently working to certify on-orbit elements through 2028.”