Sci-tech

WaPo: Trump admin looking to privatize International Space Station

WaPo: Trump admin looking to privatize International Space Station

Among the concerns amongst space experts about Trump's proposal are the legal liabilities an orbiting, inhabited space station could run into.

The Trump administration has chose to end the USA government funding for the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025 under its 2019 proposed budget.

W├Ârner noted that other countries supporting the ISS had only committed until 2024, and Trump's proposals signaled an intention for the U.S. to use the orbiting station beyond that date.

"We're building capability for the eventual human exploration of deep space and the moon is a stepping stone", said Andrew Hunter, NASA's acting chief financial officer, on Monday, according to The Washington Post.

NASA now spends about $3 billion a year on station operations and support, maintaining the U.S. segment of the outpost, supplying spare parts and other critical cargo and buying seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S., European, Canadian and Japanese astronauts to and from the outpost.

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The 2019 fiscal plan, which includes a 10-year spending blueprint, is not formal legislation, and final congressional budget measures rarely conform to presidential proposals.

Trump has proposed ending US government funding for the orbiting outpost, which is jointly supported by the European, US, Japanese and Russian space agencies.

The potential is there for private companies to capitalize on a chance to control the ISS and the low Earth orbit it resides in.

"The administration's budget for NASA is a non-starter", said U.S. Sen. The first piece of the station was launched in 1998, and the complex was essentially completed with the retirement of NASA's space shuttles in 2011.

The budget to be proposed for NASA later today will offer some preliminary support for a lunar exploration program, but has no specific timelines for when humans might return to the surface of the Moon-nor funding to make such an ambitious undertaking happen.

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The administration is working on a transition plan that "could turn the station over to the private sector", the report said.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, was open to the proposal, but said defunding the station before 2028 "would not allow sufficient time" for a private-sector transition.

"Walking away from the International Space Station now would be a mistake, threatening American leadership and hurting the commercial market as well as the scientific community", Mulqueen said in a statement. Drug companies like Merck and Eli Lilly have used the space station to research medications.

In 2015, Congress guaranteed funding for the USA part of the International Space Station until 2024. There's only two crew missions a year.

The engineers and scientists associated with WFIRST have to now wait for Congress to deal with its own budget proposals for the 2019 fiscal year in the next few months and hope that lawmakers have a better deal lined up for the future of the mission than the president has.

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