Trump Plans to Privatize the International Space Station

Trump Plans to Privatize the International Space Station

As part of a congressionally-mandated ISS transition plan yet to be released, NASA examined several options for the station's future, according to that document.

All or part of the ISS has been in low Earth orbit since 1998 and the station has been continuously inhabited since 2000.

According to the newspaper, the White House is creating a transition plan for moving the ISS to the private sector and will request 150 million dollars for the 2019 fiscal year to support the commercial entities that would manage the space station in the future.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Frank Slazer, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, said the plan also could prove sticky with the station's worldwide partners.

It also doesn't seem to take into account how other space agencies around the world would feel about such a move, seeing as this is supposed to be an worldwide space station. "NASA will expand worldwide and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit".

The ISS has cost the United States government over $100bn (£72.18bn) to build and operate over the years and to pull out of the project after spending so much on it is not something that will go down without opposition, notes the report. Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he hoped recent reports of NASA's decision to end funding of the station "prove as unfounded as Bigfoot". Now NASA is in the process of studying the possibility to extend the service life of the station by 2028.

Less clear is how such a plan would be coordinated with the station's worldwide partners. An optimistic guess could be that the ISS goes to a company that continues the station's scientific research for its own commercial purposes, but a much more pessimistic guess could involve the passing of the ISS to real estate developers, to convert the station into a gaudy space resort for the super rich (Russia already wants to build a luxury wing on the ISS for rich tourists).

Actual details on how the government plans to hand over the ISS to the private sector were not mentioned in the internal Nasa document, notes the report.

"The ISS is built for science and human exploration, it's not built for profit-seeking", said Andrew Rush, the chief executive of Made In Space, which manufactures objects for the space station using 3-D printing. "It is the intent of NASA and the Administration to maintain seamless access to a human platform in LEO that meets NASA's and the Nation's goals", the document states.

So, while the sale of the ISS seems like an inevitability, there's probably still a good few years left until it becomes the Coca-Cola Space Station.

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