The Trump administration has begun talks to privatize the International Space Station. Or at least the United States’ government’s role. For some kind of industrial consortium to take over NASA’s role by 2025, as President Trump has ordered.
It won’t be easy since the space station, which has been inhabited since 2000, is already a consortium of governments–the U.S., Japan, Russia, Canada and the European Space Agency.
In an interview with the Washington Post, newly-confirmed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the goal would be to have the platform orbiting 250 miles up become a privatized space lab.
“We’re in a position now where there are people out there that can do commercial management of the International Space Station,” Bridenstine said.
“I’ve talked to many large corporations that are interested in getting involved in that through a consortium, if you will.”
As usual with Trump pronouncements, his space station privatization statements ignited a furor among some, including Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s up for reelection this fall in Texas, which includes Houston where — oh look! — the Johnson Space Center is located.
Cruz attributed the idea to unidentified “numbskulls” in the Office of Management and Budget headed by former Rep. Mick Mulvaney
The U.S. spends between $3 billion and $4 billion a year on its share of the space station’s operations, including around $70 million per ticket for each American astronaut to ride aboard Russian spacecraft since President Obama closed down the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
Bridenstine acknowledged it might be difficult for private companies to see the business sense in taking over the station’s expensive operations but would continue to offer unique research opportunities in zero-gravity. He declined to identify the companies he’s been talking with but noted he has seven years until the president’s deadline.
Boeing and Space X are already involved with the astronaut program, including future plans to return to the Moon.