The Trump administration recently came up with an unexpected proposal: after 2024, federal financing of the International Space Station will come to an end. The International Space Station (ISS) is a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. The US has spent nearly $100 billion to build and operate it.
The US has always been a nation of scientific research, discoveries and brilliant scientists. If the plan suggested by the current political administration is to succeed, there will be a great loss in terms of national competitiveness in the field of technological and scientific development.
In fact, we don’t know what companies will be effectively able to take the station over and continue to finance its projects. Moreover, what private enterprises might do with ISS and how they will be able to support Trump’s plan is still a mystery.
President Trump’s main purpose is to find an agreement with international corporations that, in cooperation with NASA, could renew financial support. The total budget request is $150 million in fiscal year 2019 and it is expected to increase over time.
The first reaction to the president’s plan was of strong opposition. Senator Ted Cruz, a congressman particularly devoted to the cause, hoped that recent reports of NASA’s decision to end funding of the station would be as ‘unfounded as Bigfoot’.
Andrew Rush, chief executive of Made in Space, a company that uses 3D printing to manufacture objects of the Space Station, stated that, “the ISS is built for science and human exploration, it’s not built for profit seeking.” He perfectly summed up one of the most evident criticisms of Trump’s administration: every decision is always a result of financial and economic interests. As we all know, the president presents himself as a businessman first.
In many ways, reinforcing Trump’s role in every aspect of his political career is part of his own nature. He should take into account how his decision could be critical for all the members of the Station’s staff who might lose their jobs, slowing down the research projects carried out in the last few months. Moreover, as American citizens, we all know how proud we should be of all the protocols NASA proposed and effectively carried out in history. Many remember the feeling of amazement when the Apollo 11 first landed on the Moon. The first steps by humans on another planetary body were taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969.
Although it is proven that most of the scientific community is against Trump’s plan, if this is to be adopted, the private sector would gain control of the ISS and hopefully try to make the most out of it. As long as the government was the only source of financial support, the information related to the Station’s activities were widely accessible for all American people.
Conversely, privatization is expected to let little to no information be disclosed to the public and national press. The public still deserves to be informed of what NASA is currently doing and should be totally free to express opinions whenever a new research succeeds and new discoveries result from it. The whole matter raises two difficult criticisms that both American politicians and NASA members should definitely take into account if their purpose is to solve this controversy in the most effective way.
The government should do all that is in its power to continue to finance the station: science is not shopping. We have to find money even if the credit card is empty; time flies, and what is to be discovered and developed today cannot be procrastinated and achieved in an unknown future.
Finally, if the private sector wins finding of the ISS, information should continue widespread. Common people’s welfare and the world’s development are the main objectives of all NASA projects, why shouldn’t the beneficiaries of all this hard work have the right to deeply know and clearly understand all the effort that lead to new historical discoveries?
Antonia Vanzini, from Catholic University of Sacred Heart, is an International Relations and Languages major from Milan, Italy.
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