Sci-tech

Trump Proposes Privatizing US Operations On Space Station

Trump Proposes Privatizing US Operations On Space Station

The WFIRST was in line after the James Webb Space Telescope, which is going to be launched in 2019, as the next big thing in astronomy mission.

The goal of that effort would be to have commercial facilities in operation by the time NASA funding for the ISS ends in 2025, with NASA potentially being a customer of those facilities to support its research needs, such as for exploration beyond Earth orbit.

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. Rumors about ending federal funding have circulated for some time, and The Washington Post reported on the plansover the weekend.

Boeing, along with Elon Musk's SpaceX, are both in the process of developing crew transportation systems to enable USA astronauts to travel on an American-made space vehicle-currently the US pays Russian Federation $80 million per seat to travel on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.

The administration's plan, he said, may be "to find a way in those three years to have the private sector use enough of the station to see whether there's a justification for a post-station LEO (low-Earth orbit) platform that would be commercial". The transition draft says NASA will continue to consult with its global partners "to ensure consensus".

The government has cited higher priorities at the US space agency for backing the cancellation. But he's said he not convinced the industry could bear the financial burden of maintaining the space station by the mid-2020s.

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

But any bid to end federal funding for the station after 2024 is likely to run into considerable resistance.

The International Space Station has hosted astronauts since 2000.

It was reported last month that Trump would request an end to ISS funding by 2025, which many have criticized as throwing a wrench in USA space exploration plans, as the ISS is the sole destination for US astronauts. If the ISS was no longer a government concern, that money could be allocated elsewhere - perhaps, even, to other off-world ventures. Drug companies like Merck and Eli Lilly have used the space station to research medications.

Cochair of the WFIRST research team, David Spergel, who is an astrophysicist at the Princeton University, thinks that it is awful that space astronomy leadership is being abandoned, following the recommendation of the Trump administration to cut the mission.

And SpaceX and Boeing are each developing spacecrafts to send astronauts to and from the space station. "NASA is called to refocus existing activities towards exploration, by redirecting funding to innovative new programmes and support for new public-private initiatives", acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement. They will boost the lab's crew back to six, joining Expedition 55 commander Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and Japanese physician-astronaut Norishige Kanai.


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