The American administration proposed to stop financing the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025.
Too old, too expensive
This initiative is included in the draft federal budget, according to the Internet portal The Verge. The formal announcement will be sounded on February 12, so the time for a change is up to those pores.
The operation of the ISS costs NASA between three and four billion dollars a year. The station has been operating for two decades, and total demanded more than $ 87 billion from the US budget. The US space agency promised to finance this program until the end of 2024, thanks to the Obama administration. After that time the fate of the station hangs in the air.
The possible abandonment of the station in the future means that American astronauts could be grounded on Earth for years. At least until the NASA creates new vehicles for its plans to travel to distant space.
Now, Boeing and SpaceX are building these new types of vehicles. But, unfortunately, so far neither the one nor the other has managed to create anything suitable for transportation of people. SpaceX planned to conduct the first manned launch to the ISS in late 2017. But after the explosion of the Falcon9 in September 2016, the launch was postponed until May 2018. According to The Verge, the latest plans of the US government suggest that both Boeing and SpaceX will not be able to send astronauts until 2019.
The congressmen insist that the ISS maintenance costs are too expensive. Legislators also believe that the station “slows down” the development of American astronautics and prevents concentrating on research in the deep space. But the refusal to finance the station will free billions of dollars, which will allow America to work on its own projects. Moreover, President Trump already ordered the revival of the lunar program.
At the same time, many of the private space industry companies want NASA to extend the program until 2028. This will give NASA time to transfer research programs to the commercial sector. Or time to create their own modules on low orbit.
The ISS fate
On the one hand, the station is already flying above its earlier deadline. No one will be surprised if the government again decides to extend the life of the station.
On the other hand, America’s decision will affect the fate of the modules of other ISS members. Without the US, there will not be enough money to operate the station for any of the participants, which means that the whole ISS risks flooding in the ocean. The main financial burden lies with the United States and Russia. At the moment, the European Space Agency, Canada, and Japan are interested in participating in this project. But none of the participants will independently fund the station. They are ready to participate only on a parity basis, together with the US and Russia.
What do Russians plan?
The first block of the ISS – “Zarya” – was Soviet, then American blocks were already docked to it. 5 of the 14 main modules in the ISS are Russian. Moreover, this year it is planned to dock another Russian module “Nauka” to the station, which should become a multifunctional laboratory.
The only option for Russians to save their part is to undock the Russian segment of the station and continue its independent flight. Russia already has a plan for a new Russian orbital station. It’s project of which presumes the presence of five modules and a crew of three cosmonauts.
In fact, there is no serious alternative to carrying out space research in Earth’s orbit. At a farther distance from the Earth, hard radiation and other unfavorable factors for research begin. Now there are no ways to solve these problems or they are not technologically developed. Therefore, it is quite probable, while the ISS physically allows to live and work on its board, the discussion on its fate will continue …