The administration of US President Donald Trump wants to privatise the International Space Station (ISS) and cut off federal funding for the lab within a few years.
Reports emerged only last month that Nasa had plans to pull out of the ISS, but now, it looks like the government will be making a move to completely privatise the enterprise. The Washington Post reports that the government wants to treat the ISS as a piece of real estate run by a private party.
The ISS will cease to receive funds from the US government from 2024, according to a Nasa document that the Post obtained. The document also reportedly mentions plans to not completely abandon the space lab, but hand it over to private industry.
"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 document states. "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."
Nasa's budget for this year, would include a request of $150m (£108.27m) for the fiscal year 2019, with more in the coming years, "to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS — potentially including elements of the ISS — are operational when they are needed", reads the document.
Actual details on how the government plans to hand over the ISS to the private sector were not mentioned in the internal Nasa document, notes the report. However, the government "will request market analysis and business plans from the commercial sector and solicit plans from commercial industry".
The ISS has cost the US government over $100bn (£72.18bn) to build and operate over the years and to pull out of the project after spending so much on it is not something that will go down without opposition, notes the report.
Nasa is yet to submit a report on whether the service life of the ISS could be extended till 2028 and decisions that affect the space lab should be made only after it is completed, senator Ted Cruz told the Post.
Mark Mulqueen, Boeing's space station programme manager, said: "Walking away from the International Space Station now would be a mistake, threatening American leadership and hurting the commercial market as well as the scientific community."