The Trump administration is preparing to end US support for the International Space Station by 2025. The move is part of a plan to privatize the ISS after funding ends.
An internal NASA document, obtained by the Washington Post, outlines a decision to end funding for the station, however rather than simply handing the ISS to the other countries involved, the Trump Administration wishes to open the space station’s ownership to private companies.
The Trump administration wants to invest roughly $150 million next year as a start to help ready the private industry to assume responsibility for activity in low Earth orbit. The document reads the White House “will request market analysis and business plans from the commercial sector and solicit from commercial industry.”
Congressional officials have denounced the plan, including Senator Bill Nelson, who had harsh words for those who wish to shut down funding. “If the administration plans to abruptly pull us out of the International Space Station in 2025, they’re going to have a fight on their hands,” said the senator in a Tweet. “This would likely decimate FL’s commercial space industry and hinder our ability to experiment in low-Earth orbit”
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly stressed concerns over the logistics of handing the station over to the private sector. “This notion that you could just turn the most-complicated vehicle we’ve ever built, that was built and based on this international partnership, I don’t think is really possible,” Kelly told Fox Business.
Because of funding issues, some argue that a public partnership is the most likely way to ensure the space station remains operational. Companies are already interested in investing in the ISS. Two private companies, Space X and Orbital ATK, already regularly deliver cargo to the station. Yet, others warn that defunding the ISS would be a significant step back in space exploration.
The International Space Station is maintained and operated by a coalition of the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Russian Space Agency. The Chinese government has been spending billions of dollars in their space program, and is looking to take the lead in space exploration.
Would defunding the ISS be a huge step back, or is privatization the future of space exploration?