After he recently signed historic tax cuts into law, President Donald Trump proudly proclaimed that America was once again open for business. Now it appears as if he wants to do the same thing for the International Space Station.
After agreeing to continue funding for ISS operations through through 2024--which represents a four year extension of the original plan--the White House has now tasked NASA with kicking about a few ideas about what to do once that funding runs out. A leaked NASA memo obtained by the Washington Post posits what could be an interesting idea:
“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.”
Hmm, that sounds a lot like the P-word to me--and not the one that ended up on hats at the Women's March.
In its budget request, to be released Monday, the administration would request $150 million in fiscal year 2019, with more in additional 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.”
The privatization of space--it's quite the concept. After last Wednesday's wildly successful launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, it's also not surprising that the administration would be anxious to promote more partnerships between the taxpayers and private industry and get American exploration of space on the fast track. And, as a bonus for you Alien fans out there, it roughly lines up with how the Weyland Corporation started to take over space ventures from various world governments. Of course, following that logic, whoever ends up taking control of the ISS will eventually try to bring face-hugging xenomorphs back to Earth for use as bioweapons--so you know there has to be some blowback.
In this case, it actually comes from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who didn't mince words with his opposition:
Last week, Cruz said he hoped recent reports of NASA’s decision to end funding of the station “prove as unfounded as Bigfoot.” He said the decision was the result of “numskulls” at the Office of Management and Budget.
“As a fiscal conservative, you know one of the dumbest things you can to is cancel programs after billions in investment when there is still serious usable life ahead,” he said.
When asked about the possibility of a public-private partnership, he said, “I think all of us are open to reasonable proposals that are cost effective and that are utilizing the investments we made in a way that maximize their effectiveness."
I agree wholeheartedly--and there are some quick and easy solutions we could deploy right now, if we're willing to think outside the box just a little. For example, how about casino gambling? Put a couple of roulette wheels and a few slot machines up there and you wouldn't be able to keep the tourists away. Then there's the naming rights. Offer to change the name from the International Space Station to the International House of Pancakes. Before you know it, the place will be paying for itself and then some.