The Trump administration wants to let the private sector run US operations on the International Space Station.
The directive, which is based on recommendations of the recently re-activated National Space Council (NSC), will refocus NASA on its core mission, space exploration, the White House spokesman said.
"We can't do everything and, as always, we've had to make hard choices, but we will continue to forge new paths and partnerships that strengthen our industrial base and our engagement with other nations", he said. The U.S. now pays between $3 billion and $4 billion per year to operate the ISS, and since 1993, has spent about $87 billion to build and operate the space lab.
Private businesses are already involved in several space projects.
Retired NASA historian and Smithsonian curator Roger Launius notes that any such move will affect all the other countries involved in the space station; Russian Federation is a major player, as is Europe, Japan and Canada. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claimed his company is ahead of the rest of the space industry.
A three-tonne supply of food, fuel and supplies was just launched for the three Americans, two Russians and one Japanese astronaut now residing in the ISS. NASA is in charge of USA science and technology that has to do with airplanes or space.
The internal NASA document has scant details over how the privatization of the station would work. With the US cutting its support for the station, it would most likely rely on public-private partnerships, with bulk of the station's upkeep being shouldered by private companies.
The budget also confirms the cancellation of five Earth-science missions proposed for termination a year ago. NASA sends probes out into space.
NASA also supplies the lion's share of the station's electrical power through four huge sets of solar arrays and operates the four massive gyroscopes used to maintain the station's orientation as required without using rocket thrusters.
SpaceX and Boeing, meanwhile, are developing crew capsules to fly astronauts to and from the space station within the next year.
The International Space Station was photographed from the space shuttle Atlantis as a shuttle departed the orbiting complex for the final time in the early hours of July 19, 2011.
The 2019 fiscal plan, which includes a 10-year spending blueprint, is not formal legislation, and final congressional budget measures rarely conform to presidential proposals. The Trump administration instead envisions "the emergence of an environment in [low Earth orbit] where NASA is one of many customers of a non-governmental human space flight managed and operated the enterprise while providing a smooth and uninterrupted transition". No man has returned to the moon since December 11th, 1972, during the Apollo 17 mission. The mission's estimated cost is somewhere between $3.2 and $3.9 billion. "NASA is called to refocus existing activities towards exploration, by redirecting funding to innovative new programmes and support for new public-private initiatives", acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement.