Based on documents released from the White House, President Trump wants to privatize U.S. operations on the International Space Station (ISS).
According to the plans, NASA would stop funding the space station by 2025.
Specifically, the Trump Administration is proposing to use $150 million of federal funds to begin the Commercial LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) Development program, which would attempt to develop commercial developments, which could later take over operations.
The move to privatize U.S. space station interests comes as President Trump launches plans to explore deep space, as well as send people back to the moon and possibly to Mars.
In the President’s current budget proposal, Trump requested $10 billion for space exploration and to establish U.S. dominance on the moon; the funds would reportedly be part of a $19.9 billion NASA overhaul.
According to reports, Trump plans to change the direction of NASA without offering additional funds for new programs, aside from the new program to attract private investments.
It’s up to Congress to pass a long-term funding bill if they want to honor this level of funding requested, efforts for which are already drawing criticism, including from U.S. Senator and Houstonian Ted Cruz.
During an interview, the junior Member said the decision came from “numbskulls” at the Office of Management and Budget:
“As a fiscal conservative, you know one of the dumbest things you can do?” Cruz asked, as reported by the New York Times. “Canceling programs after billions in investment when there is still serious usable life in it.”
Despite some optimisms, revenue analysts say they doubt a company could turn the space station into a profit-center, especially with the international partnerships in place:
“The ISS is built for science and human exploration, it’s not built for profit seeking,” Andrew Rush, the chief executive of 3-D printing company Made In Space, said in an interview with the Washington Post.
According to its website, Made In Space uses a 3-D printer to create items in the space station.
Since the space station is an international partnership, it’s unclear how the U.S. could privatize its share or how other countries would be impacted by the changes.