Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Research | By Francis Brooks

Trump's Proposed Budget for NASA Calls for Return to the Moon

Trump's Proposed Budget for NASA Calls for Return to the Moon

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 global partners - Russia, the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan.

The Trump administration is considering turning the International Space Station over to the private sector and ending its federal funding, according to an internal NASA document obtained by the Washington Post.

The good part of the plan is that NASA would set aside $200 million for rides on commercial landers to the lunar surface.

It was reported last month that Trump would request an end to ISS funding by 2025, which many have criticized as throwing a wrench in USA space exploration plans, as the ISS is the sole destination for US astronauts.

The budget proposal, due to be released February 12, will include a request for $150 million to support the development of commercial capabilities in low Earth orbit to succeed the ISS, for which NASA could be a customer, according to an internal agency document obtained by SpaceNews.

It was not clear if NASA envisions partners taking over some or all of the ISS, or if the football field-length research complex would be dropped from orbit and replaced by commercial stations. Mike Suffredini, a former space station program manager for NASA who now runs Axiom Space in Houston and aims to establish the world's first commercial space station cautioned that the US government needs to have a direct hand in the International Space Station until it comes down. "Keeping these advances on track, both technologically and as groundwork for establishing a commercial marketplace in low Earth orbit, is critical".

"The administration's budget for NASA is a nonstarter". With the USA cutting its support for the station, it would most likely rely on public-private partnerships, with bulk of the station's upkeep being shouldered by private companies.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft connecting to the International Space Station in 2013.

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Trump's 2019 budget proposal, which cuts about $3 trillion overall, slightly increases NASA's budget to $19.9 billion and seeks $150 million to focus on commercial development and returning astronauts to the moon.

The International Space Station (ISS) is seen in an undated NASA handout picture, June 10, 2015.

The budget would eliminate funding for NASA's Office of Education, repeating a proposal that failed a year ago.

"It's a good place for the conversation to begin", said Andrew Rush, CEO of Made in Space, which uses 3D printing to build hardware for space. Drug companies like Merck and Eli Lilly have used the space station to research medications.

NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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

Rocket builders SpaceX and Orbital ATK have contracts with NASA to complete supply missions without crews.

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