The Trump Administration Takes Its Privatization Push Into Space

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From the beginning of the Trump administration, most Americans understood that the privatization of public services would be a top priority on the administration’s far-right agenda.

Because of Trump’s sordid relationship with the business community, many predicted that the Trump presidency would wind up becoming a “corporate coups d’etat.” While in turn, programs supporting our most vulnerable would disappear in a cloud of “deficit busting” measures.

One agency that has always seemed secure, albeit sometimes ignored, is NASA. Now it looks like Trump is considering privatizing space exploration and more specifically – the International Space Station.

Space: The Next Corporate Frontier

Internal documents obtained by the Washington Post outline a new proposal from the Trump team suggesting that the International Space Station be turned into a private corporate enterprise. The administration apparently believes that turning NASA into a “customer of a non-governmental human space flight managed and operated enterprise” will set the United States ahead of the world regarding scientific research and space exploration.

The proposal is in line with Trump’s purported “vision” for US involvement in space exploration. Trump declared in in his presidency that he wanted to send NASA back to the moon and eventually send astronauts on a mission to Mars. That proposal has not been backed by increased financial support, however, with NASA receiving around 0.5 percent of annual federal spending.

And the full corporatization of space exploration will likely not serve to advance that goal, but rather to make a those who hold stakes in the venture very, very rich.

Another Step Backwards

Corporate ownership of space exploration is not a new idea. Previous administrations opted to outsource cargo supply flights to the station, and that process continues today. Think SpaceX.

But the full turn-over of the International Space Station is easier said than done, surprisingly because conservative lawmakers might not be on board. Of all people, Ted Cruz put his foot down:

“As a fiscal conservative, you know one of the dumbest things you can do is cancel programs after billions in investment when there is still serious usable life ahead.”

Frank Slazer, the vice president of space systems for the Aerospace Industries Association, noted that turning the station into a commercial venture would be nearly impossible:

“It’s inherently always going to be an international construct that requires US government involvement and multi-national cooperation.”

Former astronaut Martin Kelly warned in an editorial last week that the direction of the Trump administration was “short-sighted” and warned that cutting funding to the station would be disastrous to the interests of the country.

 

Featured Image via NASA/Public Domain

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