NASA should extend the life of the International Space Station (ISS) until at least 2028, two US Senators said in a hearing to examine the future of the orbiting laboratory. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness convened the hearing on Wednesday, which was the first in a series of two hearings to examine the role of the space station.
In its 2019 budget request, the Donald Trump administration proposed ending direct government funding for the ISS by 2025, Florida Today, part of the USA Today network, reported on Wednesday. “We’ve got this platform up there (worth) north of $100 billion, and it’s there,” Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, ranking member on the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, was quoted as saying. “Abandoning this incredible orbiting laboratory where they are doing research when we are on the cusp of a new era of space exploration, would be irresponsible at best and probably disastrous,” Nelson added.
The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 directed NASA to develop a plan to transition ISS from the current regime that relies heavily on NASA sponsorship to a regime where NASA could be one of many customers of a low-Earth orbit (LEO) non-governmental human spaceflight enterprise. The aim was to save money so that more resources could be invested into deep space exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars.
The space agency’s internal watchdog on Wednesday, however, said that private companies are unlikely to take on the more than $1 billion annual cost to run the International Space Station by 2025 as NASA hopes. The report from NASA Inspector General provided a closing argument against the Trump administration’s proposal to privatise or abandon the orbiting laboratory so soon, the US senators said, according to the Florida Today report. “The defence rests,” quipped Senator Cruz of Texas.