US privatise International Space Station

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The plan to privatize the station - the largest single human structure even put in space - is expected to draw out-of-this-world criticism because the United States has spent almost $100 billion to build and operate it, the Washington Post said.

The US plan, the paper said, involves privatising the ISS, a low-orbit space station piloted by the US space agency NASA and developed jointly with its Russian counterpart.

"The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be de-orbited at that time - it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform", the Post quoted the leaked document as saying. Skeptics say that this is troubling, as the ISS was built for science, not business.

The plan to privatize the station is likely to run into a wall of opposition, especially since the United States has spent almost $100 billion to build and operate it.

The report came ahead of the White House's budget proposal for next fiscal year, expected to be released Monday, which the Post said includes a funding request aimed at ensuring that "commercial successors to the ISS" are operational.

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Last week, Senator Ted Cruz slammed the reports, claiming he hoped they would "prove as unfounded as Bigfoot" after the amount of money spent to operate the station. He said the decision was the result of "numbskulls" at the Office of Management and Budget.

NASA is now studying whether the life of the station could be extended to 2028, or beyond, and he said any decision should hinge on that report.

The move could present a major roadblock to space exploration. "It's inherently always going to be an global construct that requires USA government involvement and multinational cooperation".

Aeronautics giant Boeing now operates the station - which weighs roughly 460 tons - on behalf of NASA.

In a statement, Boeing's Space Station manager Mark Mulqueen said that "handing over a rare national asset to commercial enterprises before the private sector is ready to support it could have disastrous consequences for American leadership in space and for the chances of building space-focused private enterprise". The station allows worldwide crews to conduct scientific research in the environment of low Earth orbit. NASA now spends about $3-4 billion per years to run it, and the government has spent around $100 billion on it total since the ISS was first launched into low-Earth orbit in 1998. Subcontractor operations gained momentum during the Obama presidency.

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