Trump wants to privatize the International Space Station

Katrina Barker
February 15, 2018

According to USA government, the proposed $150 million will be used to create a programme to help prepare private companies or commercial entities to take over the ISS operations over the next seven years, as reported by BBC.

The idea is to ensure a seamless transition from government-funded ISS operations to an outpost using new components, or even elements of the current space station, that would be operated as a base for private sector innovation, global cooperation and NASA experiments and research needed for eventual flights back to the moon and on to Mars. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who rocketed into orbit in 1986, said "turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space" makes no sense.

The station's first component was launched in 1998, and construction continued until the end of the USA space shuttle programme in 2011.

The president proposes shifting large chunks of money from the space station, satellites studying a warming Earth and a major space telescope toward a multi-year $10.4 billion exploration plan aimed at returning astronauts to the moon in about five or six years.

Donald Trump has asked the NASA to step up its efforts on human crew missions to deep space, a priority that brings together elected officials from both sides. Congress earlier this month passed a spending package that set limits through the end of the next budget year.

Cochair of the WFIRST research team, David Spergel, who is an astrophysicist at the Princeton University, thinks that it is awful that space astronomy leadership is being abandoned, following the recommendation of the Trump administration to cut the mission. The president also plans to end education programs in the space agency. Even so, if the station were to be turned over to private companies and maintained beyond 2024, Russia's space hotel could still stand a chance. The end of the shuttle program prompted NASA to turn over the business of supplying the station to private firms.

Boeing, along with Elon Musk's SpaceX, are both in the process of developing crew transportation systems to enable US astronauts to travel on an American-made space vehicle-currently the USA pays Russian Federation $80 million per seat to travel on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.

And SpaceX and Boeing are each developing spacecrafts to send astronauts to and from the space station. "We were very pleased, we thought the administration showed confidence in the USA that we can accomplish something not just for NASA but for the nation".

Putting $150 million toward commercial development for the space station would be a "great indication" the administration is confident in what the private sector can do, CSF executive director Tommy Sanford told CNN. According to an internal NASA document acquired by The Washington Post, the ISS could transition from being used by the USA government to becoming a privately-operated real estate venture. No company would accept the liabilities and risks associated with the station, he said, if the sprawling complex went out of control and came crashing down.

Almost half of the proposed $19.9 billion budget - $10.5 billion - is earmarked for "an innovative and sustainable campaign of exploration and lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilisation followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations", according to a NASA overview.

While the Trump budget plan says it places renewed support on returning humans to the moon, followed by human expeditions to Mars and elsewhere, few details are provided. The Trump administration instead envisions "the emergence of an environment in [low Earth orbit] where NASA is one of many customers of a non-governmental human space flight managed and operated the enterprise while providing a smooth and uninterrupted transition".

NASA in 2022 hopes to launch the first portion of a small station to be placed in orbit around the moon.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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