Trump aims for moon, pulls back on space station and telescopes

15 February, 2018, 05:17 | Author: Sam Montgomery
  • The rocket will arrive at the International Space Station at 12:24pm

The Trump administration has released the NASA budget proposal for the fiscal year 2019 on Feb 12.

The Trump administration has made a decision to end the United States government funding for the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025 under its 2019 proposed budget.

The president announced on Monday plans to end direct federal funding for the orbiting lab by 2025 and provide $150 million to begin a program to "encourage commercial development of capabilities" that NASA could use in its place.

Nasa has spent around 100 billion dollars (£71 billion) on developing the low orbit satellite, of which the first parts were launched in 1998. NASA will continue to fund a "gateway" concept for a small outpost in orbit near the Moon in the mid-2020s, with landings somewhere, at some point in the distant future.

The White House considered asking for $19.6 billion overall for NASA, 2.6% more than in the current fiscal year.

Another company, Bigelow Aerospace, builds habitable space structures and also is involved with the Space Station, specifically with its Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) which is attached to the ISS.

The goal of that effort would be to have commercial facilities in operation by the time NASA funding for the ISS ends in 2025, with NASA potentially being a customer of those facilities to support its research needs, such as for exploration beyond Earth orbit.

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The budget makes several structural changes to NASA's budget, including ending funding for a separate "Space Technology" directorate created by the Obama administration, and rolling that research into the "Deep Space Exploration Systems" account.

The NASA document notes that the station's worldwide partners are each at a different state in planning for operations of the ISS beyond 2024.

The idea is to ensure a seamless transition from government-funded ISS operations to an outpost using new components, or even elements of the current space station, that would be operated as a base for private sector innovation, worldwide cooperation and NASA experiments and research needed for eventual flights back to the moon and on to Mars.

The NASA document indicates the administration "will request market analysis and business plans from the commercial sector and solicit plans from commercial industry" as it hammers out a fuller plan.

Private businesses already have a hand in the space station project. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claimed his company is ahead of the rest of the space industry. They will boost the lab's crew back to six, joining Expedition 55 commander Anton Shkaplerov, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and Japanese physician-astronaut Norishige Kanai.

Cochair of the WFIRST research team, David Spergel, who is an astrophysicist at the Princeton University, thinks that it is awful that space astronomy leadership is being abandoned, following the recommendation of the Trump administration to cut the mission.

Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, called it a "pretty exciting time" for the agency.

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