Are you a small-government conservative who wants to keep the federal government out of zero gravity? Well, you may be in luck.
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that, according to a NASA document it obtained, the Trump administration is proposing to make the International Space Station a privately run enterprise by the end of 2025.
Under the plan, the White House would fund the station as normal through 2024, but at the same time “expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.” Specifics about which companies would be involved, or how any of the infrastructure would work, are thin.
As the Post notes, the station is no stranger to private industry; Boeing currently operates it at a cost of $3 to $4 billion a year.
But the Trump administration, as in so many other areas, would go much farther than its predecessors, cutting off federal funding altogether.
The space-station proposal is of a piece with large overall budget cuts to NASA envisioned by the Trump administration as part of its 2018 budget. But the NASA cuts (along with the entire budget) have a very long way to go to become reality, and have already run into major detractors, even among conservatives.
On Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz said that, “I hope that those reports prove as unfounded as Bigfoot,” and blamed “numbskulls” at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget for a misguided idea.
Then there’s the matter of other countries. The International Space System is, after all, international, and it’s unlikely that America’s partners in low orbit would be so enthusiastic about the U.S. bringing about the deconstruction of the intergalactic state.
In a statement, Boeing’s Space Station manager Mark Mulqueen said that “handing over a rare national asset to commercial enterprises before the private sector is ready to support it could have disastrous consequences for American leadership in space and for the chances of building space-focused private enterprise.”
As is often the case, the Trump administration seems alone in wanting to gut a long-standing American-funded institution.