Europe space chief says privatising ISS unrealistic

Randolph Lopez
February 15, 2018

The station's other key partners - Canada, Europe and Japan - have not strongly expressed either a desire to continue using the ISS beyond 2024 or supporting development of other facilities in LEO.

NASA spends about $3.5 billion annually on the ISS, including launches of cargo and astronauts.

The proposal doesn't say what companies would take over or what private enterprise might want to do with the station.

The administration's budget proposal is also cancelling the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), which was supposed to be NASA's next flagship astrophysics mission following the James Webb Space Telescope. It provides no funding for the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite; the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) experiment; the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder; the Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI); or Earth-viewing instruments aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/NASA spacecraft that launched in 2015. Congress earlier this month passed a spending package that set limits through the end of the next budget year.

An artist's rendering of NASA's Space Launch System rocket taking flight. Donald Trump signed this new directive in the presence of astronaut Jack Schmitt, who had participated in this last human mission on the Moon.

Mark Mulqueen, the space station program manager for Boeing, told the Post that pulling government funding for the station would be a "mistake". The end of the shuttle program prompted NASA to turn over the business of supplying the station to private firms. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claimed his company is ahead of the rest of the space industry.

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

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A complete transfer to the commercial sector is a different matter, however. No company would accept the liabilities and risks associated with the station, he said, if the sprawling complex went out of control and came crashing down.

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

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.

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

Now, the Trump administration wants to push that public-private partnership even further to encourage "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 enterprise, while providing a smooth and uninterrupted transition", the document said. No man has returned to the moon since December 11th, 1972, during the Apollo 17 mission.

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".

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