By Tim Pearce
President Donald Trump’s administration wants to push the International Space Station (ISS) out of NASA’s hands and into the private sector, according to NASA documents obtained by The Washington Post.
The ISS costs the federal government about $3 billion to $4 billion a year to operate, but the administration plans to cut the funding completely by 2025. The federal government has invested about $100 billion into the station, so far, according to WaPo.
“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,” the document states, according to WaPo. “NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.”
The White House is expected to release its budget request Wednesday asking for $150 million in 2019, plus more later on, to ensure the ISS and future, private space stations “are operational when they are needed.”
Elon Musk’s privately-owned space company SpaceX launched a Falcon Heavy rocket into space Tuesday. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket ever launched by private enterprise, The New York Times reported.
Musk’s rocket carried a payload consisting of his personalized Tesla car, called the red Roadster, and a mannequin in a SpaceX spacesuit. The rocket is expected to hang in orbit around the Sun for millions of years.
“It’s kind of silly and fun, but silly and fun things are important,” Musk said, according to the NYT.
Musk is pushing for private industry to invest more funding in space exploration.
“We want a new space race,” Musk added. “Races are exciting.”
The Trump administration proposal to privatize the ISS, if introduced, is expected to meet heavy pushback. GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas hopes the proposal is “as unfounded as Bigfoot.”
“As a fiscal conservative, you know one of the dumbest things you can to is cancel programs after billions in investment when there is still serious usable life ahead,” he said, according to WaPo.
The Texas senator is open to discussing a “reasonable” public-private partnership, however.
The ISS has been operated in part or full by Boeing since 1995. Boeing’s space station program manager Mark Mulqueen said the federal government backing out of the ISS would be an abdication of American space leadership.