International Space Station going private: Who are the key players?

This uncrewed cargo mission plans to deliver three tons of food fuel and other supplies

GETTYThis uncrewed cargo mission plans to deliver three tons of food fuel and other supplies

The Trump administration aims to privatize the International Space Station by 2025, redirecting NASA's investment in the orbiting laboratory complex toward a lunar exploration program.

NASA would end its participation in the International Space Station in 2025 under a Trump administration budget proposal released Monday, an idea that one influential senator immediately called a "non-starter".

NASA could stop funding to the International Space Station after 2024, at which point a commercial venture could take over.

The United States has spent almost US$100 billion to build and operate the station orbiting around the earth at more than 17,000 miles per hour.

The FY 2019 budget provides a top-line number of $19.892 billion for NASA, an increase over the FY 2018 budget of $19.519 billion that is largely attributable to the recent budget agreement passed by Congress, which raises spending levels for defense and discretionary spending.

"We're building capability for the eventual human exploration of deep space and the moon is a stepping stone", NASA's acting chief financial officer Andrew Hunter said in a Monday news conference.

President Barack Obama continued the transition to hire Boeing and SpaceX to fly astronauts to the station.

The same budget proposal proposes to pull the plug on WFIRST, a space telescope mission that NASA said is "designed to settle essential questions in the areas of dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics".

The space station is scheduled to operate through 2024. These commercial flights will represent the first astronaut launches from USA soil since NASA's shuttles stopped flying.

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Trump previous year signed an order to restart missions to the moon.

A complete transfer to the commercial sector is a different matter, however.

The budget request "reflects the administration's confidence that America will lead the way back to the moon and take the next giant leap from where we made that first small step for humanity almost 50 years ago", NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said today in a "State of NASA" address at the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

A view of the International Space Station's power-generating solar arrays taken by an astronaut in January 2017.

While the Trump budget plan says it places renewed support on returning humans to the moon, followed by human expeditions to Mars and elsewhere, few details are provided.

Now, the Trump administration wants to push that public-private partnership even further to encourage "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 enterprise, while providing a smooth and uninterrupted transition", the document said.

NASA in 2022 hopes to launch the first portion of a small station to be placed in orbit around the moon.

NASA Acting Administrator, Robert Lightfoot gave the address and was nothing but optimistic and confident, starting things off by saying "American will lead the way back to the moon and take the next giant leap from where we made the first small step almost 50 years ago". The budget for the mission was already being trimmed down after it was found to be getting too costly.

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