Trump administration supports transition to commercially-focused space station

Room for let The space station is a terrible real estate deal

The Trump administration wants to have private entities take over operation of the International Space Station (ISS), which costs over US$3 billion a year to run, according to the Washington Post.

A budget proposal released Monday for the 2019 fiscal year starting October 1 would have NASA turn over space station operations to commercial and/or global partners after 2024.

Many in the space arena have already expressed concern. Senator Bill Nelson, who went into space in 1986, said that "turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space" made no sense.

The $19.9 billion spending plan for 2019, up about $400 million from this year, seeks to refocus human exploration on the moon and shift responsibility for low Earth orbit missions to industry or global partners.

It also calls for $10.5bn for "an innovative and sustainable campaign of exploration" leading to "the return of humans to the moon for long-term exploration and utilization followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations", according to a Nasa review.

Elon Musk's SpaceX company and Orbital ATK have been delivering to the station since 2012.

But pulling NASA funding would likely still have an effect on the space station's future. "We were very pleased, we thought the administration showed confidence in the USA that we can accomplish something not just for NASA but for the nation". (Certainly these would not occur before 2024, the a year ago of a Trump presidency if he were to win a second term).

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Putting $150 million toward commercial development for the space station would be a "great indication" the administration is confident in what the private sector can do, CSF executive director Tommy Sanford told CNN.

SpaceX and Boeing, meanwhile, are developing crew capsules to fly astronauts to and from the space station within the next year.

"The proposal would also end support for the International Space Station in 2025 and make deep cuts to popular education and science programs", he added.

The budget request "reflects the administration's confidence that America will lead the way back to the moon and take the next giant leap from where we made that first small step for humanity almost 50 years ago", NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said today in a "State of NASA" address at the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

"In short, we are once again on a path to return to the Moon with an eye toward Mars". The Trump administration instead envisions "the emergence of an environment in [low Earth orbit] where NASA is one of many customers of a non-governmental human space flight managed and operated the enterprise while providing a smooth and uninterrupted transition".

When that mission launches, it will be the first human mission to the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Hertz also added that only way to preserve the USA space agency's ability to meet the established target cost and deliver the project on time is to maintain progress against the existing plan, should Congress decide against Trump's proposal to eliminate WFIRST. Among them: the proposed end of WFIRST, a telescope with 100 times the field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission's estimated cost is somewhere between $3.2 and $3.9 billion.

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