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article imageTrump plans to privatize the International Space Station

By Karen Graham     Feb 12, 2018 in Politics
Washington - NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal will include plans to end funding for the International Space Station in 2025, but leaves open the possibility of handing part or all of the station over to the private sector.
It was first learned on January 25 the Trump administration was preparing to end support for the International Space Station (ISS) program by 2025, to free up resources for higher priority, deep space missions such as Mars.
The story was based on a draft proposal seen by The Verge and confirmed by two people familiar with the directive. The proposed budget is part and parcel of the Trump administration's budget request due out on February 12.
The budget proposal includes a request for $150 million to support the development of commercial capabilities in low Earth orbit to succeed the ISS, for which NASA could be a customer, according to an internal agency document obtained by SpaceNews.
Astronauts Scott Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson aboard the ISS
Astronauts Scott Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson aboard the ISS
It is way to early to even guess how this plan would work, and it will certainly meet a great deal of opposition. In the first place, it would have to be an uninterrupted transition for "all parties" involved, because after all, the ISS is an international endeavor. Since 1993, The ISS was and is a collaborative effort by NASA and space agencies from Russia, Japan, the European Union, and Canada.
The draft proposal reads: “The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time—it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform."
ISS considered a "distressed" property
The space station was never considered a money-making venture, and it does cost a great deal of money to keep it in operation for all the countries involved. Flights to the station are expensive, too. In 2018, Russia is charging the U.S. $81 million per seat to launch astronauts aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.
The International Space Station crew -- (L-R front row) Kimiya Yui  Commander Scott Kelly  Kjell Lin...
The International Space Station crew -- (L-R front row) Kimiya Yui, Commander Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren, (back row L-R) Sergey Volkov, Oleg Kononenko and Mikhail Kornienko -- gathered November 2, 2015 to mark 15 years of human habitation on the ISS
And SpaceX doesn't offer any great discount just because it is an American company. The Falcon 9 rocket costs $62 million per launch. So when you think about it, for a private company to get their employees to work on the ISS, that is a lot of travel expense.
Perhaps more important to consider is the type of research being done aboard the ISS. As points out, "The microgravity aboard the station provides an environment not available on the planet, and the studies conducted there are largely pure science — done strictly to advance the state of knowledge."
The research being done on the ISS today is critical to any plans we have for deep space exploration, from learning how the human body reacts to the pressures of living in a microgravity environment to how plants grow. So while the ISS is not a money-making venture, and can be considered a distressed property, it does have its value to science.
More about NASA, Iss, Privatization, 2019 budget, Funding cuts
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