Trump's NASA budget focuses on Moon with an eye towards Mars

Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan

Commercial space advocates welcomed the Trump administration's goal, but even they worry the private sector may not be ready as soon as 2025 to replace NASA as primary underwriter for station operations.

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.

According to U.S. government, the proposed $150 million will be used to create a programme to help prepare private companies or commercial entities to take over the ISS operations over the next seven years, as reported by BBC.

Private businesses already have a hand in operating the space station. Senator Bill Nelson, who went into space in 1986, said that "turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space" made no sense.

The ISS is not exclusively a Nasa project - Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada are all involved, as are several private companies.

The plan to privatize the station is likely to run into a wall of opposition, especially since the United States has spent almost $100 billion to build and operate it.

The station's first component was launched in 1998, and construction continued until the end of the US space shuttle programme in 2011.

President Trump wants NASA to focus more on human exploration to Moon and Mars and that is why it wants the space agency to give less emphasis on ISS in the coming years.

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"The ISS is built for science and human exploration, it's not built for profit seeking", said Andrew Rush, the chief executive of Made In Space, a company that uses 3-D printing to manufacture objects on the space station. Moreover, the budget features some high profile and controversial cancellations, including the WFIRST space telescope, Earth Science, and the NASA Office of Education. Congress earlier this month passed a spending package that set limits through the end of the next budget year. Shown here: an artist's depiction of NASA's Deep Space Gateway in orbit near the moon.

"I'm just delighted that the Trump administration is willing to begin a genuine dialogue that we now have several years to plan", NanoRacks CEO Jeff Manber told FOX Business.

The proposal to privatize the space station doesn't come as a big shock.

Air travel giant Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX are now at work on crew capsule to send USA astronauts to the space station via commercial flight, according to the Post. President Barack Obama extended that model to hire Boeing and SpaceX to fly astronauts there.

But key USA legislators and space experts are expressing concern about the plan.

A complete transfer to the commercial sector is a different matter, however.

"The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time - it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform", the paper said, citing an internal memo from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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