Trump budget would privatize USA space station operations

Sergey Savostyanov  TASS

A casualty of NASA's redirection of funds toward lunar exploration, however, is its direct support of the International Space Station, which the Trump administration wants to cut funding to in 2024.

"The budget proposes to end direct U.S. 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,", which was released on Monday. Under Trump's proposed budget, Washington would pull governmental funding and instead provide a budget of $150 million (122 million euros) to encourage the involvement of private enterprise in the ISS. It could also be too soon for the private sector to have such an asset, a concern expressed by Mark Mulqueen, Boeing's space station program manager.

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

NASA spends about $3.5 billion annually on the ISS, including launches of cargo and astronauts.

In total, the Trump administration requested $19.6 billion from Congress for 2019.

The space station now is authorized through 2024 and while many at NASA believe the outpost's lifetime could be extended at least another four years to 2028, no such decisions have been made by the United States and its global partners - Russia, the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan. All these things indicate that the USA government is more interested in human explorations of space rather than research and experiments on ISS.

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. NASA sends probes out into space. "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".




Cochair of the WFIRST research team, David Spergel, who is an astrophysicist at the Princeton University, thinks that it is bad that space astronomy leadership is being abandoned, following the recommendation of the Trump administration to cut the mission.

Less clear is how such a plan would be coordinated with the station's worldwide partners.

A complete transfer to the commercial sector is a different matter, however. President Barack Obama extended that model to hire Boeing and SpaceX to fly astronauts there.

"It's a hard issue", W├Ârner said, however a partly privatized space station would "not be the end of the world".

The Post reported Sunday that an internal NASA document it obtained says, "It is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform".

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

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. The mission's estimated cost is somewhere between $3.2 and $3.9 billion.

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