Since 1998, the International Space Station has stood has a symbol of global cooperation even at times when the participating countries weren't seeing eye to eye. It's 15 modules have been inhabited continuously since 2000 and over the years it has played host to almost 200 astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations. However, despite countries extending support until 2024, this could all still come to an end.
Russia, it seems, has plans of its own and is looking at breaking up the ISS by detaching its modules and using them to build a new space station just for itself beginning in 2013. In April, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the plans "to create our own national space station in orbit" by 2023.
While Russia has committed to the ISS until 2024, experts believe that the stations hardware should last through 2028, but Russia isn't exactly thrilled with that arrangement.
According to Putin, there are two reasons for ending the partnership with the other ISS countries. Russia has plans to land cosmonauts on the moon by 2030, and having a space station that it can use as a jumping off point would be helpful for those plans. Secondly, Putin said, ""From the ISS only 5% of the area of Russia can be seen. From a national station, we should be able to see the whole of the area of our huge country."
Russia isn't alone in this thinking. China has orbital aspirations of its own. At the 64th International Astronautical Congress in 2013, China confirmed its plans to construct a "Heavenly Palace" national space station by 2023. China is moving quickly to accomplish this goal with its first lab module, Tiangong-1 launching in 2011 and a second laboratory set for launch in 2017.
So where does this leave the United States? Unfortunately, as Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin pointed out, "Homeless in space." He added, "The Russian segment [of the ISS] can exist independently from the American one, but the American segment cannot exist without the Russian." This implies that if the United States is to continue to have a presence in space after the Russians pull out, we will have to build it ourselves.
As part of this new space race, you can expect NASA to enlist the help of many private companies including long time partners Lockhead Martin and Boeing. You can also expect newcomers such as SpaceX and Orbital ATK to also begin playing a roll as competition again heats up among the stars decades after America landed on the Moon.