There is no debating the fact that NASA has been managing the International Space Station (ISS) for 15 years, but it seems the US space agency is ready to back down from further use of the ISS and then allow private sector industries to take over and run it for commercial purposes.
NASA disclosed it has stayed around long enough in low-Earth orbit, and it is now time to venture further into deep space for more rewarding things. But continuing to maintain the ISS on its current budget would not allow NASA to move ahead with other deep-space initiatives – so it will be resting its scientific experiments at the ISS in the next 10 years.
NASA first flew missions to the ISS and later paid private companies such as SpaceX and Orbital ATK among others to fly resupply missions out there, but it seems it is now time for the general public to make the best use of the ISS if they are well able to.
“We’re going to get out of ISS as quickly as we can,” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s chief of human spaceflight, at NASA’s advisory council meeting last week at Johnson Space Center. “Whether it gets filled in by the private sector or not, NASA’s vision is we’re trying to move out.”
Gerstenmaier as a top figure for NASA said the agency is now looking at taking humans closer to the Moon – the cislunar space region, or even somewhere closer to Mars. With only $3 billion annual budget, NASA will not be able to achieve this latest vision unless it retires its involvement at the ISS.
What happens to the $140-billion ISS built as a project between 15 countries remains unknown, and extreme thinkers think NASA might want to de-orbit it and then allow it to disintegrate in lower space before falling into the Pacific Ocean. But this is not certain at the moment.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden told officials of the US Commerce Department that the ISS might further be used by private organizations in the private sector to enhance internet and GPS satellite operations for business purposes, adding that “We really want to open up low-Earth orbit to the terrestrial markets, and I want the private sector to explore.”
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