The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry.
The White House plans to stop funding the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post.
“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. “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.”
In its budget request, to be released Monday, the administration would request $150 million in fiscal year 2019, with more in additional years “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.”
Don't expect any help from Republicans in NASA states like Texas or Florida, either. They're definitely on board for "commercializing" the ISS.
The plan to privatize the station is likely to run into a wall of opposition, especially because the United States has spent nearly $100 billion to build and operate it. Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he hoped recent reports of NASA’s decision to end funding of the station “prove as unfounded as Bigfoot.” He said the decision was the result of “numskulls” at the Office of Management and Budget.
“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.
When asked about the possibility of a public-private partnership, he said, “I think all of us are open to reasonable proposals that are cost effective and that are utilizing the investments we made in a way that maximize their effectiveness."
Quite the fold there from Ted Cruz. Of course he wants the ISS to continue and to use NASA mission control in Houston. He just doesn't want taxpayers footing the bill.
And so China, the European Union, of course Russia, and even India will continue their national space programs while we turn over everything to Elon Musk and whoever follows him, and hope for the best.
Space isn't worth it if there's no immediate profit, I guess.