The Trump administration, which previously said that it wants to cut International Space Station funding by 2025, is apparently thinking about turning it over to the private sector.
Donald Trump wanting to end direct federal support for the International Space Station is one thing, but privatizing it is another thing entirely. What are the chances that such a plan will push through?
Trump Administration May Privatize International Space Station
The official budget request is expected to be released Feb. 12, but in advance, The Washington Post acquired an internal NASA document that outlines the plans for the International Space Station.
According to the document, the White House is working on a transition plan that will turn the International Space Station over to the private sector after funding stops by 2025.
"The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time," stated the document obtained by The Washington Post, adding that there is a possibility that the private sector will continue the operation of certain parts of the International Space Station "as part of a future commercial platform." The document also said that NASA will be expanding its international and commercial partnerships in the next seven years to "ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit."
The Trump administration will request funds of $150 million for fiscal year 2019 to funnel into the private sector to make sure that, once the International Space Station is turned over by 2025, the commercial successors will be operational. The amount will increase over the succeeding years.
Will The International Space Station Really Go Private?
Cutting off funding to the International Space Station was previously criticized as harmful to the public and private interests of the United States in space. The plan to privatize the station, meanwhile, will likely also be met with resistance, as the White House has already poured almost $100 billion investments into it.
The plan to privatize the International Space Station, however, comes with a lot of problems. First of all, the steep costs of maintaining and operating the station will likely never lead to profits. This is because the International Space Station was never meant to make money.
In addition, the work being done in the International Space Station currently does not have commercial applications in mind. Even if the kind of work in the station will change, private companies will have to wait for a very long time before they get the returns for their investments.
Lastly, partners across the country and the world will not take it well if the United States government bails from the International Space Station, when the White House was the one that talked everybody into the project.
For the sake of the United States, the Earth, and the future, hopefully, the Trump Administration does not move forward with the plan to turn over the International Space Station to the private sector.