The International Space Station (ISS) might lose support and funding from the US by 2025 if the Donald Trump-led administration has its way.
A recent draft of a budget proposal, independently reviewed by the Verge, has found that the move to end support for the ISS will be part of the draft when it appears for an official budget request on 12 February.
The draft may change before its presentation but according to the Verge report, sources familiar with the matter have confirmed that the directive to end funding will be part of the final proposal.
While it is true that budget related proposals from the administration will first have to go through Congress for approval after thorough scrutiny, just the announcement of such an intent to withdraw support for the only science lab outside the planet could have a ripple effect, notes the report.
It could be construed by the international space community as the US not being interested in the programme any more. Many other partners also need to decide whether or not they want to continue to work with Nasa and the ISS after 2024.
As of now, the US government spends about $3bn (£2.1bn) to $4bn a year on the ISS, representing a total investment of over $87bn in the project that has spanned over 20 years now. It is, as the report notes, a major hub of activity and research with regards to conducting experiments in microgravity as well as studying about the human body and genetic research in outer space, in weightlessness.
The last budget approval and extenesion came from the Obama administration where the budget was extended by 10 years in 2014, all the way to 2024. Congress has reportedly openly debated on what to do about the ISS once the money runs out, but they are yet to come up with a concrete plan.
The report mentions that the ISS' end of operational lifetime is set to happen in 2028, and commercial space companies and researchers would like Nasa to continue funding it till then. In that time Nasa will have to figure out a way to transition to a fully commercial hub in orbit or turn to the commercial sector full time to maintain a hub in space to continue its research. The report also mentioned that commercial companies might not be able to prepare for such a mission within 2024.
The Nasa Transition Authorization Act that President Trump signed in 2017 has reportedly asked the space agency to find a way to move away from majority Nasa funding for the ISS missions. The report was due to be placed with Congress by December last year, but it is not clear as to whether it was submitted or not.
Only late last year, Trump directed Nasa to get to the Moon and abandon the Mars plans. The report also mentions that Congress has been trying to get out of the ISS for sometime so that more funding can be directed toward the deep space missions like the Space Launch System and a new capsule as well as the replacement for the Shuttle. The Deep Space Gateway and a space station near the Moon was also envisioned, but it is not clear as to when work will begin on them.
None of the claims made in this story have been independently verified by IBTimes UK.