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". According to an internal NASA document acquired by The Washington Post, the ISS could transition from being used by the us government to becoming a privately-operated real estate venture. Senator Bill Nelson, who went into space in 1986, said that "turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space" made no sense.
NASA spends about $3.5 billion annually on the ISS, including launches of cargo and astronauts.
Retired NASA historian Roger Launius said the plan would affect all the other countries involved in the space station, including Russian Federation and countries in Europe and Asia that have participated in space-station projects.
President Barack Obama continued the transition to hire Boeing and SpaceX to fly astronauts to the station.
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.
He said the move would put the US on course to "do something exciting" in space for the first time in years, adding that his company is "ready" to partner with NASA on its moon efforts. Even so, if the station were to be turned over to private companies and maintained beyond 2024, Russia's space hotel could still stand a chance.
It was not clear, however, how private companies might profit from taking over the ageing station - its first section was launched in 1998.
The Trump administration is serious about sending robots and spacecraft back to the moon - although no NASA astronaut will set foot on the chalky lunar surface until after President Trump leaves office. Shown here: an artist's depiction of NASA's Deep Space Gateway in orbit near the moon.
The proposed $19.9 billion budget - $10.5 billion - is earmarked for "an innovative and sustainable campaign of exploration and lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilisation followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations".
The station has allowed worldwide crews - notably in collaboration with the Canadian, European and Japanese space agencies - to pursue scientific research in the environment of a low Earth orbit. "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. A test launch of this system would remain on track for 2020, with a first crewed launch around the moon three years later, according to budget details.
The WFIRST telescope's cost estimates have ballooned to $3.6 billion and Hunter said it just got too expensive.