Trump Proposes Privatizing US Operations On Space Station

by Fredrick Graves February 15, 2018, 5:15
Trump Proposes Privatizing US Operations On Space Station

Congress has directed NASA to study the feasibility of extending space station operations, which cost about $3 billion a year, to 2028 or 2030.

NASA Acting Administrator, Robert Lightfoot gave the address and was nothing but optimistic and confident, starting things off by saying "American will lead the way back to the moon and take the next giant leap from where we made the first small step almost 50 years ago".

US President Donald Trump, on Monday, unveiled the 2019 budget proposal and as expected he has given more emphasis on return of American astronauts to Moon. The budget would increase NASA's spending by $375 million, to just under $20 billion annually.

The budget proposal, due to be released February 12, will include a request for $150 million to support the development of commercial capabilities in low Earth orbit to succeed the ISS, for which NASA could be a customer, according to an internal agency document obtained by SpaceNews.

CASIS said Monday it doesn't know what a commercially run space station would look like, but "looks forward to working with both the Administration and Congress on the future of the International Space Station".

The idea is to ensure a seamless transition from government-funded ISS operations to an outpost using new components, or even elements of the current space station, that would be operated as a base for private sector innovation, global cooperation and NASA experiments and research needed for eventual flights back to the moon and on to Mars.

Additionally, the new budget proposal will cancel five Earth science missions, including the Radiation Budget Instrument, the Plankton; Aerosol; Cloud; ocean Ecosystem (PACE), the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR)'s Earth-viewing instruments, and the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder. WFIRST was the top-priority large project in the most recent U.S. National Research Council Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics, which came out in 2010. (Certainly these would not occur before 2024, the past year of a Trump presidency if he were to win a second term).

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NASA's forthcoming mega-rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), also looms large in the budget.

NASA's Office of Education also gets the axe.

But finding companies to run US operations cost-effectively by 2025 would be a heavy lift. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is any guide.

"In short, we are once again on a path to return to the Moon with an eye toward Mars".

MIT astronautics professor Dava Newman, who was the deputy NASA chief under Barack Obama, called the space station "the cornerstone of space exploration today" but said the Trump administration's proposal makes sense because it is doing long-term planning.

The space station now is authorized through 2024 and while many at NASA believe the outpost's lifetime could be extended at least another four years to 2028, no such decisions have been made by the United States and its worldwide partners - Russia, the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan.

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