Thursday, 15 November, 2018

WaPo: Trump admin looking to privatize International Space Station

Sergey Savostyanov  TASS Sergey Savostyanov TASS
Faye Gross | 15 February, 2018, 07:09

The white house proposal released on Monday says, "The budget proposes to end direct United States financial support for the International Space Station in 2025, after which NASA would rely on commercial partners for its low Earth orbit research and technology demonstration requirements".

The proposal envisions a future for the station in low-Earth orbit, where NASA is "one of many customers of a non-governmental human space flight managed and operated enterprise" at the ISS.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, a former astronaut, said the proposed plan to stop funding the International Space Station "makes no sense". The United States has already spent some Dollars 100 billion to launch, operate and support the orbital station.

The space station is an global partnership, and it's not clear what privatizing the US portion would mean for the other countries.

It also calls for $10.5bn for "an innovative and sustainable campaign of exploration" leading to "the return of humans to the moon for long-term exploration and utilization followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations", according to a Nasa review.

The administration wants to focus on exploring deep space - sending people back to the moon and perhaps beyond. Congress earlier this month passed a spending package that set limits through the end of the next budget year.

The Trump administration wants to invest roughly $150 million next year as a start to helping ready private industry to assume responsibility for activity in low Earth orbit. The president also plans to end education programs in the space agency.

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The space station is scheduled to operate through 2024. The end of the shuttle program prompted NASA to turn over supply runs to the commercial sector.

And NASA already relies on commercial providers - SpaceX and Orbital ATK - to launch and deliver cargo to the space station and plans to use commercially developed spacecraft built by SpaceX and Boeing to ferry astronauts to and from the outpost starting next year. President Barack Obama extended that model to hire Boeing and SpaceX to fly astronauts there. "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". 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.

The International Space Station has hosted astronauts since 2000.

NASA has supported the ISS for more than two decades and contributes between $3 billion and $4 billion to the project yearly.

"In short, we are once again on a path to return to the Moon with an eye toward Mars".

The ISS, which orbits some 400 kilometres above Earth, is now supported in a joint project by the U.S., Russian, Japanese and European space agencies. No man has returned to the moon since December 11th, 1972, during the Apollo 17 mission. The proposed budget would continue support for those endeavors, NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said Monday.

The WFIRST was in line after the James Webb Space Telescope, which is going to be launched in 2019, as the next big thing in astronomy mission.

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