Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Science | By Eileen Rhodes

Trump funds U.S. money for Worldwide Area Station

Trump funds U.S. money for Worldwide Area Station

The proposal zeroes out funding for the International Space Station (ISS) in 2025 and allocates $150 million "to encourage development of new commercial low-Earth orbital platforms and capabilities for use by the private sector and NASA", according to the agency's budget overview. It could also be too soon for the private sector to have such an asset, a concern expressed by Mark Mulqueen, Boeing's space station program manager.

The spacecraft is loaded with 1,940 pounds of propellant to help raise the station's orbit, about 100 pounds of oxygen and air, 926 pounds of water and 3,128 pounds of dry cargo, including spare parts and science gear.

Altogether, the budget seeks to increase NASA's budget slightly to $19.6 billion. Frank Slazar, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, pointed out to the Post that the worldwide agreements the United States signed regarding the creation of the ISS would render making it a commercial outpost tricky.

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.

Next up for the Russians is the return of three station crew members aboard the Soyuz MS-06/52S spacecraft February 27, bringing outgoing station commander Alexander Misurkin and two NASA astronauts, Mark Vande Hei and Joseph Acaba, back to a landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan to close out a 166-day stay in space.

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The documents show an administration that is eager to put a new emphasis on human space exploration, but unwilling to spend enough to dramatically speed NASA's long-term-and long-delayed-plans to return Americans to space without leveraging growing private investment.

Democrat senator Bill Nelson of Florida, who was once an astronaut himself, said "turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space" made no sense.

Plus, it's up to Congress to pass a budget, not the president. Andrew Rush, chief executive of 3-D printing company Made In Space, said plainly that the ISS isn't built for profit seeking.

Boeing, along with Elon Musk's SpaceX, are both in the process of developing crew transportation systems to enable USA astronauts to travel on an American-made space vehicle-currently the US pays Russian Federation $80 million per seat to travel on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. Drug companies like Merck and Eli Lilly have used the space station to research medications. Moreover, the budget features some high profile and controversial cancellations, including the WFIRST space telescope, Earth Science, and the NASA Office of Education. 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.

NASA's acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, called the plan "very exciting" with lots of potential, despite what he said were some hard decisions that went into it.

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