Trump Administration Hoping to Privatize International Space Station, Report Claims

Posted February 15, 2018

US President Donald Trump's administration wants private businesses to run the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025, but that's "unrealistic" according to the head of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The president proposed to end government funding for the space station in seven years' time, in his budget for fiscal year 2019. The government would set aside $150 million to encourage commercial development and use future savings to aim for the moon. Senator Bill Nelson, who went into space in 1986, said that "turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space" made no sense.

The plan to privatize the station is likely to run into a wall of opposition, especially since the United States has spent almost $100 billion to build and operate it.

At first, $10.5 billion will be funded to NASA in the 2019 fiscal year, which will start on October 1st, to make the preparations for a human exploration of the Moon, as a step forward towards the exploration of Mars, and beyond. All these things indicate that the U.S. government is more interested in human explorations of space rather than research and experiments on ISS.

Frank Slazer, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, said the plan also could prove sticky with the station's global partners. It provides no funding for the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite; the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) experiment; the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder; the Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI); or Earth-viewing instruments aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/NASA spacecraft that launched in 2015. Last year, Russian Federation revealed plans to build a luxury hotel on the station - however, the Trump administration's decision to cut funding in 2024 would make it impossible for the hotel to turn a profit sooner than that. Frank Slazar, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, pointed out to the Post that the global agreements the United States signed regarding the creation of the ISS would render making it a commercial outpost tricky.

Some members of Congress oppose abandoning the space station so soon. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claimed his company is ahead of the rest of the space industry.

Lightfoot ended things by saying we are once again on a path to return to the Moon with an eye towards Mars. The supersize Space Launch System rocket being built by NASA to send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit - along with its Orion crew capsule - would get $3.7 billion under this budget. No man has returned to the moon since December 11th, 1972, during the Apollo 17 mission. Among them: the proposed end of WFIRST, a telescope with 100 times the field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope. "NASA is called to refocus existing activities towards exploration, by redirecting funding to innovative new programmes and support for new public-private initiatives", acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement.