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Space Leaders Worry Over Possible Space Station Defunding

The International Space Station. Photo: NASA

A leaked draft proposal has some space industry leaders worried about the International Space Station. Online publication The Verge reported the Trump administration wants to end government funding of the ISS by 2025.

The official draft will be released February 12, but leaders in the space industry are already calling the measure a bad idea.

“If the administration plans to abruptly pull us out of the International Space Station in 2025, they’re going to have a fight on their hands,” said Senator Bill Nelson, the top democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee which oversees the nation’s space program. “Such a move would likely decimate Florida’s blossoming commercial space industry.”

Space Florida’s Vice President Dale Ketcham agrees. NASA partners with private companies like Boeing, SpaceX and Orbital ATK to ferry supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station. Ending the station’s funding in 2025 would end those partnerships.

“That would not be healthy at all because so much of the progress we have made in growing the commercial space industry has been predicated by NASA being a reliable customer,” said Ketcham. “If NASA was now to say we’re going to back out of the ISS, they are undercutting the financial business model that incentivized the private sector to make investments in commercial space.”

SpaceX and Boeing plan to launch demonstration flights of their crew capsules later this year that will launch astronauts to the station from U.S. soil for the first time since the end of the shuttle program. Currently, NASA pays Russia for rides to the station.

The space station costs NASA about $4 billion each fiscal year. Congress asked NASA to look at extending the support of the International Space Station through 2028. The first occupants of the station arrived in 2000. Since then, the station has always had a human presence on board.

The Trump administration proposed sending astronauts back to the moon ahead of a long-term goal of setting foot on Mars and focusing more on commercial partnerships. NASA is working with international partners to develop a Deep Space Gateway, a space station that would orbit near the moon to help prepare for deep space missions.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »