Potential end of the ISS raises concerns, presents opportunities

SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft To Come Back With Significant NASA Cargo

"If the administration plans to abruptly pull us out of the International Space Station in 2025, they're going to have a fight on their hands", Nelson said in a statement. The document doesn't elaborate on what those would entail, but would open the door to NASA making use, through leases or other arrangements, of proposed future space stations.

NASA spends about $4 billion annually to support the International Space Station and its astronauts living there, and the agency spent almost $100 billion over more than a decade to construct the station.

Though Congress ultimately has final approval on the decision, the proposal itself spells bad news for NASA's worldwide partners and investors, as it sends a sign that the program lacks the government's full support.

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As described by The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets, the White House's draft spending proposal for fiscal year 2019 would call for ending direct funding for space station operations by 2025 and transitioning to commercial provision of spaceflight capabilities in low Earth orbit. Funding for the ISS was approved by the Obama administration through 2024, though the provision left the door open to continue US federal funding for the station into 2028. It's unclear how NASA could do that, but it would free up that $4 billion a year to be spent instead on deep space exploration and another visit to the Moon. NASA's primary partner on the ISS is Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, and astronauts from Europe, Canada, and Japan also live and work on the ISS. Companies like SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Sierra Nevada Corp are paid billions to fly cargo and supplies there.

"At Axiom Space, we're building the first commercial space station", said Amir Blachman, vice president of strategic development for Axiom Space, during a panel discussion at the Space Tech Summit in San Mateo, California, Jan. 24.

According to The Verge: "Nasa has been developing both a giant rocket, the Space Launch System, and a crew capsule, Orion, to take astronauts beyond lower Earth orbit". One of them is even attached to the station now, as a test site. The Verge said an intention to cancel funding could signal to global partners the United States isn't interested in the program's continuation - and many of those partners haven't yet decided if they'll keep working on the effort after 2024. In an interview, Bob Bigelow, the company's chief executive, said that he plans to launch two space habitats to low Earth orbit by 2021. Some in industry have said they expect the administration to unveil a plan to involve commercial entities in a deep space mission, aimed at the moon.

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