Trump Wants to Put the ISS in the Hands of Private Industry

Lena Tucker
February 15, 2018

The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry.

The White House released its Fiscal Year 2019 NASA budget proposal on Monday, and it confirmed the administration's plans to prioritize space exploration while stepping away from supporting the International Space Station, which houses astronauts and science experiments in low-Earth orbit. The budget would set aside only $150 million to encourage private development of the station, and devote the savings to Trump's goal of sending astronauts once again to the moon.

"We can't do everything and, as always, we've had to make hard choices, but we will continue to forge new paths and partnerships that strengthen our industrial base and our engagement with other nations", he said.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, a former astronaut, said the proposed plan to stop funding the International Space Station "makes no sense".

NASA now spends about $3 billion a year on station operations and support, maintaining the U.S. segment of the outpost, supplying spare parts and other critical cargo and buying seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S., European, Canadian and Japanese astronauts to and from the outpost.

His plans for ISS and the Nasa space programme were unveiled in his 2019 budget proposal.

Retired NASA historian Roger Launius said the plan would affect all the other countries involved in the space station, including Russian Federation and countries in Europe and Asia that have participated in space-station projects.

Air travel giant Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX are now at work on crew capsule to send US astronauts to the space station via commercial flight, according to the Post.

A three-tonne supply of food, fuel and supplies was just launched for the three Americans, two Russians and one Japanese astronaut now residing in the ISS.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who leads the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, also recently referred to supporters of exiting the ISS program as "numbskulls".

These lunar investments include building a "power and propulsion space tug" (whose cost and details remain unclear), a fleet of robotic moon rovers and landers, and a new technology program to engineer cheaper ways to get to the moon, and beyond. The first piece of the station was launched in 1998, and the complex was essentially completed with the retirement of NASA's space shuttles in 2011.

But pulling NASA funding would likely still have an effect on the space station's future.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft connecting to the International Space Station in 2013.

The station has allowed global crews - notably in collaboration with the Canadian, European and Japanese space agencies - to pursue scientific research in the environment of a low Earth orbit.

When that mission launches, it will be the first human mission to the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972. Among them: the proposed end of WFIRST, a telescope with 100 times the field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope. The budget for the mission was already being trimmed down after it was found to be getting too costly.

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