"So even if the station's life is extended beyond 2020, it is coming down, eventually. NASA could try to salvage a piece here and there, but there are no plans to deconstruct it, so the controlled de-orbit will be a spectacular, fiery event. Too big to burn up completely, the station will crash somewhere in the open water of the South Pacific. It will be perhaps the most expensive man-made object that human beings have ever intentionally destroyed. This vision of the future will sink to the bottom of the sea, ending another chapter in the history of what people used to call the Space Age."
Keith's: Joel Achenbach at the Washington Post does not seem to think that the ISS does much, is dangerous, and will just be dumped in the ocean. He clearly went looking for ISS problems - not the promise and potential of the ISS when he wrote this article. This is how the detractors of the ISS (and perhaps human spaceflight) will start their slow motion campaign - whether they mean to or not. Bit by bit they will portray the ISS as having no value or purpose and that it is not worth keeping aloft - despite the marvels and capabilities it has yet to fully tap. Soon, no one will want to expend the energy to keep it operational. And when it is gone we will moan and wave our arms about its demise - just like the capability we threw away with Apollo, Mir, and Skylab. "What were we thinking?" we'll once again ask ourselves.