The Trump administration might be about to pull NASA funding for the ISS
I think we may be living in 1969…or something. A few months ago, we saw Donald Trump sign off a bill to make the moon great again by sending up American astronauts in preparation for missions to Mars. Now in just as backwards a fashion, a draft bill that will see funding pulled from the International Space Station has been proposed by the Trump administration.
In the budget documents, seen by The Verge, all financial support from the US could be terminated by 2025. The ISS costs NASA three to four billion dollars every year and represents an $87 billion investment for the US. In 2014, the Obama administration extended NASA’s funding for the International Space Station to 2024, securing funding for an extra ten years. Now, US funding could be pulled entirely, and could lead to a halt in lower-Earth space experimentation.
The ISS theoretically doesn’t have long left in its engine, and is due to be inoperable by 2028, but cutting off NASA’s funding by 2025 could lead to other international space organisations following suit, meaning that the commercial sector would have to take control of the ISS in the interim. Making matters worse, the commercial sector has indicated that they will not have any lower-Earth orbit modules ready by 2024. This means experiments could be grounded until an alternative is created, something which could take more than a year and a half to complete.
The ISS has been used by both government and commercial agencies in the two decades it’s been operational, and is jointly managed by Canadian, European, Russian, Japanese and US space agencies to test out things like the microgravity environment.
Recently, NASA has been using the ISS to conduct experiments on how human bodies react to long-distance space travel, so that they can determine any effects of a weightless trip to Mars. Considering that commercial programmes from SpaceX and Boeing won’t be ready to send their own astronauts to the ISS until 2019 at the earliest, and that it will only give commercial companies five years to conduct flight runs, lower-Earth space exploration looks very precarious indeed.
The official budget request will be made on 12 February.