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The Trump administration wants to privatize the International Space Station
15 February 2018, 07:09 | Kara Nash
Sergey Savostyanov TASS
The station is a joint project of several space-faring nations, and NASA has contracted with private companies, like Boeing and SpaceX, to reach it in recent years.
The ISS is not exclusively a Nasa project - Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada are all involved, as are several private companies.
NASA has spent close to $100 billion on the orbiting outpost since the 1990s.
Private companies have made it clear that they are not yet prepared to be fully involved with the station by the time USA funding ends in 2024.
The space station now is authorized through 2024 and while many at NASA believe the outpost's lifetime could be extended at least another four years to 2028, no such decisions have been made by the United States and its worldwide partners - Russia, the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan.
"We're building capability for the eventual human exploration of deep space and the moon is a stepping stone", NASA's acting chief financial officer Andrew Hunter said in a Monday news conference. "We look forward to working together with the Administration and Congress to preserve American leadership in space with the resources to match". Congress earlier this month passed a spending package that set limits through the end of the next budget year. Donald Trump signed this new directive in the presence of astronaut Jack Schmitt, who had participated in this last human mission on the Moon. The president also plans to end education programs in the space agency.
Less clear is how such a plan would be coordinated with the station's global partners.
NASA also supplies the lion's share of the station's electrical power through four huge sets of solar arrays and operates the four massive gyroscopes used to maintain the station's orientation as required without using rocket thrusters.
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And the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents companies like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, said defunding the station before 2028 "would not allow sufficient time" for a private sector transition.
And SpaceX and Boeing are each developing spacecrafts to send astronauts to and from the space station.
The government has cited higher priorities at the US space agency for backing the cancellation.
Putting $150 million toward commercial development for the space station would be a "great indication" the administration is confident in what the private sector can do, CSF executive director Tommy Sanford told CNN.
The International Space Station is seen in an undated NASA handout picture, June 10, 2015. 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 short, we are once again on a path to return to the Moon with an eye toward Mars".
The station has allowed global crews - notably in collaboration with the Canadian, European and Japanese space agencies - to pursue scientific research in the environment of a low Earth orbit.
NASA in 2022 hopes to launch the first portion of a small station to be placed in orbit around the moon.
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