"Numbskulls!" --NASA: The Trump administration Wants to Privatize the International Space Station

Sergey Savostyanov  TASS

While the Trump administration intends to end funding for the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024, it's not necessarily destined to be completely abandoned - or even removed from orbit.

In his 2019 budget for the US government, Trump on February 12 proposed to end NASA funding for the space station by 2025.

The proposal also calls for spending $150 million in 2019 to "encourage commercial development" and tee up companies to take over.

US aerospace and defense company Boeing (BA) operates the ISS for NASA, being selected as the prime contractor for the Space Station in 1993 and a cost-plus-award-fee contract with NASA that began in 1995. Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who rocketed into orbit in 1986, said it makes no sense to walk away from the space station.

The United States has spent almost US$100 billion to build and operate the station orbiting around the earth at more than 17,000 miles per hour.

The proposed budget for NASA for fiscal year 2019 is at $19.6 billion, about half a billion higher than the requested budget for this year.

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 global partners - Russia, the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan.

"The ISS is built for science and human exploration, it's not built for profit seeking", quipped Andrew Rush, the chief executive of Made In Space.

And the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, said defunding the station before 2028 "would not allow sufficient time" for a private sector transition. Shown here: an artist's depiction of NASA's Deep Space Gateway in orbit near the moon.

But any transition to a more private-sector operation using any part of the International Space Station would be hard given the lab's design.

The reason the Trump administration is taking a go-slow approach to the return to the moon is that it is unwilling to increase NASA's budget in any way for the foreseeable future.

The government has cited higher priorities at the USA space agency for backing the cancellation.

A complete transfer to the commercial sector is a different matter, however.

In 2015, Congress guaranteed funding for the U.S. part of the International Space Station until 2024.

According to The Washington Post, the US government is hoping to make the Space Station a sort of real estate venture ran by private organizations.

Lightfoot ended things by saying we are once again on a path to return to the Moon with an eye towards Mars.

The station has allowed worldwide crews - notably in collaboration with the Canadian, European and Japanese space agencies - to pursue scientific research in the environment of a low Earth orbit. A test launch of this system would remain on track for 2020, with a first crewed launch around the moon three years later, according to budget details. Among them: the proposed end of WFIRST, a telescope with 100 times the field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope.

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". The mission's estimated cost is somewhere between $3.2 and $3.9 billion.

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