Upon taking office, President Trump made no secret of his desire to run the White House, and basically the entire federal government, like a business. He even installed Jared Kushner as the head of a “SWAT Team” to overhaul the government in such a way, although we haven’t heard much of a followup there. Yet it seems like a national progression (or at least on the same wavelength) for the Trump administration to float the idea of privatizing the International Space Station (ISS), so it can operate as a sort-of real estate venture.
According to a report from the Washington Post, such a proposition is at hand. The supposed plan would end federal funding of the ISS in 2025, at which point a transition would occur in which the private sector would take over ISS ownership and operations. An impending budget request is forecast to start pouring millions into “enabl[ing] the development and maturation of commercial entities” to meet this goal. The relevant internal NASA document includes the following language:
“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. NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.”
The idea probably won’t go over well at the congressional level, especially given how Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently trashed reports of NASA deciding to stop funding the ISS. Cruz stated that the idea would be down to “numskulls,” and he hoped the reports would “prove as unfounded as Bigfoot.” He also argued that it would be “one of the dumbest things” to stop funding an asset with “serious usable life ahead.” And as The Verge points out, there are several other reasons why this idea will see opposition, but ironically, one of the stand-out points is that losing access to the ISS could actually harm the commercial space industry, which has been using the ISS to test new technologies and equipment, launch probes, and create … #Jobs.