The Trump Administration rolled out a long-term plan to end funding for the International Space Station (ISS) in 2025, well after President Trump is no longer in power. It is easy for the rulers of today to direct future Administrations to take actions to save money and cut federal spending. The problem with this idea is that it will hurt national security by ceding outer space to America’s many enemies and withdraw American participation in cooperative scientific research with other nations. At the end of the day this decision will not save the taxpayer any money and the costs just keep mounting.
The ISS is the only world orbiting laboratory dedicated to human space travel and it is just reaching the peak of scientific utility. The case for ending direct funding for the ISS is to dedicate more resources to deep space exploration. This should not be an “either-or” proposition and we can have both. After the shuttle’s all landed for good it began to look like America’s time in space was on its way down. The ISS has become a shining example of what we can do in space and allowed for cutting edge research never before dreamt of. Following through with this policy directive will hurt the American space program when it is finally on the rise.
FYI – did you know that the ISS is the largest spacecraft in human history and represents the investment of hundreds of billions of dollars from at least fifteen different countries? It is a unique model of efficiency that proves to the world that cooperative space exploration is possible.
Abandoning the space station would risk American space dominance and leadership. NASA is the world model for space management and can lead both deep space exploration and man the ISS. It is possible to manage international and commercial partners in both deep space and the ISS, but there should not be any plans to give away the ISS to corporate interests when this is a national security asset in addition to a cooperative place for scientific research.
Despite the current focus on deep space exploration and plans to send craft to Mars, continued operations in the ISS are necessary to accomplish critical scientific research that can’t be done by deep space flight.
According to NASA, the International Space Station engages in unique “micro-gravity research” and conduced over 300 experiments every month. These experiments help develop drugs to improve health. The scientific research is conducted by five space agencies and 15 nations and is a model of international cooperation. While there has been a long standing political hostility between the United States and Russia, this space station is an example of where Americans and Russians have worked together on common goals. Ending American financial support for ISS will hurt America’s standing in the world and weaken U.S. influence over deep space exploration.
The Hill reported on May 16, 2018 of Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) strong support for the ISS and he said at a hearing he chaired, “Prematurely canceling a program for political reasons costs jobs and wastes billions of dollars. We cannot afford to continue to pursue policies that have consequences of creating gaps in capability, that send $3 1/2 billion in taxpayer money to the Russian government, or that create a leadership vacuum in low-earth orbit that provides a window of opportunity for the Chinese to capitalize on it.”
This is an issue that has conservatives fighting to keep America’s leadership in space travel intact.
If the plan were to be implemented to phase out federal funding of the space station, that would imperil American leadership in space for the future.