The Trump administration plans to stop direct-government funding of the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025, instead relying on mainly private-sector support -- an action that, some astronauts warn, may not be fiscally feasible.
“This notion that you could just turn the most-complicated vehicle we’ve ever built, that was built and based on this international partnership, I don’t think is really possible,” Scott Kelly, a former astronaut who spent a year aboard the International Space Station, told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “Keep in mind, this is the most complicated thing we’ve ever built.”
The White House released President Trump’s 2019 budget proposal on Monday, which included transition plans to end federal funding and instead provide a $150 million stipend to begin a program meant to encourage commercial development capabilities that NASA could use instead.
Since 1993, the U.S. has spent more than $87 billion on building and operating the ISS, which costs approximately $3 to $4 billion per year to operate. Most likely, Kelly said, the majority of corporations and CEOs are going to be hesitant to take a gamble on an investment with such a long return. The government, however, can not only conduct this type of research, but also has the fiscal means to do so.
But the plan could also prove to be more problematic with the stations’ international partners. Europe, Russia, Canada, Japan and the U.S. work as part of a co-operative program, which means the station will always require some level of U.S. government involvement and multinational cooperation.
“We are in this program based on international agreements. It’s one of the greatest things about the space station, that we are able to this cutting-edge science with this international partnership in a common ground,” Kelly said.
Kelly wasn’t the only astronaut to voice concerns about President Trump’s proposition. His twin brother, Mark, a retired astronaut and the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), also criticized the president’s proposal.
“If we want our nation to continue leading in space, fully funding NASA's existing programs is absolutely essential,” Kelly wrote on Twitter. “Cutting funding for the International Space Station would be a step backward for our space agency.”