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U.S. backs space station through 2024

The crew of the space shuttle Atlantis took this picture of the International Space Station after leaving it in July 2011. Atlantis was the last shuttle to visit the station, which was first launched in 1998 and built by a partnership of 16 nations. The crew of the space shuttle Atlantis took this picture of the International Space Station after leaving it in July 2011. Atlantis was the last shuttle to visit the station, which was first launched in 1998 and built by a partnership of 16 nations.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama administration extends support for the ISS for another decade
  • Station "offers enormous scientific and societal benefits," officials say
  • ISS currently houses a crew of six, including two Americans

(CNN) -- The Obama administration wants to keep the International Space Station open for another decade, keeping the orbital research platform open through 2024, the White House and NASA announced Wednesday.

The decision extends U.S. support for the station by four years.

In a joint statement Wednesday afternoon, White House science adviser John Holdren and NASA administrator Charles Bolden said the station "offers enormous scientific and societal benefits."

NASA hopes to use the station to study the effects of long-duration space flight on astronauts in preparation for new missions beyond Earth in the coming decades. The ISS is also needed for studies of long-range space flight, as a platform for Earth science studies and to boost a growing private space industry, Bolden and Holdren said.

Funding for the space station must go through Congress.

The 15-year-old station currently houses six crew members, including three Russian cosmonauts, two U.S. astronauts and one Japanese astronaut. NASA currently contributes about $3 billion a year to its operations, which are also supported by Russia, Canada, Japan and members of the European Space Agency.

"With a partnership that includes 15 nations and with 68 nations currently using the ISS in one way or another, this unique orbiting laboratory is a clear demonstration of the benefits to humankind that can be achieved through peaceful global cooperation," Holdren and Bolden said. "It is important to keep this partnership intact, with America as its leader."

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