A NASA document obtained by the Washington Post indicates that the Trump administration plans on stopping the direct funding of the International Space Station with federal dollars and will instead move toward privatizing the satellite. While this doesn’t mean that the ISS will be taken out of orbit, it does mean that the government will no longer have much to do with it and will instead be turned over as property to some other private company. Because, you know, real estate is what Trump does.
The document says,
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. 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 has requested a $150 million budget for the project in 2019 in order…
…to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS — potentially including elements of the ISS — are operational when they are needed.
This move has already been met with a good amount of criticism from experts familiar with the ISS, and a whole lot more is sure to come. CEO of Made in Space, a company which 3-D prints objects on the ISS said that the station “is built for science and human exploration, it’s not built for profit seeking.”
Vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, Frank Slazer, pointed out that the move could really ruffle things up with other countries involved with the ISS (note the whole “International” thing). Slazer said,
It will be very hard to turn ISS into a truly commercial outpost because of the international agreements that the United States is involved in. It’s inherently always going to be an international construct that requires U.S. government involvement and multinational cooperation.
Turning over such an important part of humanity’s ascent into space to some random private company could put our progress into a serious decline, or even move it backwards. Space station program manager at Boeing (which has been involved with the ISS since 1995), Mark Mulqueen, said that…
…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.
In a Sunday statement, Glazer also stated…
…handing over a rare national asset to commercial enterprises before the private sector is ready to support it could have disastrous consequences for American leadership in space and for the chances of building space-focused private enterprise.
If the Trump administration follows through on this proposal, we could potentially be set back years of progress made in the realm of space research. As of right now, this seems like nothing more than the White House and its orange mascot trying to wring as much money out of this country as it can.
[via The Washington Post]