| Justin Bachman, Bloomberg
For 18 years, the International Space Station (ISS), at the zenith of global scientific collaboration, has maintained a continuous human presence and thousands of scientific experiments in its microgravity environment.
But the $ 100 Billion Laboratory Wins It will not last forever, and President Donald Trump's proposal to withdraw federal funding in 2025 has sparked a discussion about his future.
The idea of ending the role of the US taxpayer costs more than $ 3 billion a year in partnership with Russia (1
The Trump government is counting on private companies to take over and free up billions for a Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway, a planned outpost to bring US astronauts back to the Moon in the 2020s and Mars in the ensuing decade  "I believe a commercial consortium has the ability to manage it, and I believe that if we make that transition, the money we spend on ISS can flow to the gateway and bring us to the surface of the moon." NASA administrator Jim Briddentine said last month in an interview with Bloomberg News.
In his budget proposal, Trump also sought $ 150 million from Congress to promote new commercial space developments.
This plan has a number of doubts that do not consider low Earth orbit economically viable until 2025.
NASA's Inspector General Paul Martin is such a skeptic.
"We question whether there is a sufficient business case that will enable private companies to develop a self-sustaining and profitable business over the next six years that is independent of substantial federal funding," Martin wrote Report of July 30 on the management of the station, and this repeated
NASA will face "significant challenges" by trying to persuade companies to take over an "extremely costly and complex enterprise". In 2028, the Inspector General said
Briddens refuted the naysayers. "That's seven years away, and there's plenty of time for development between now and then," he said.
Trump's proposal has also catalyzed talks in Washington over when the platform should be shut down.
2014 Congress approved the extension of ISS operations until September 2024 and gave the lab another four years after its original closing date.
For Trump and Bridenstine, the problem is money – every dollar the ISS receives after 2024 is a dollar that NASA won
Nevertheless, the space station remains vital to NASA missions on Mars and is home to research the risks and technologies of human health needed for future space exploration missions] The Agency has acknowledged that it will not complete all of its planned research by the end of 2024.
Some lawmakers are looking for another extension, as the station's main contractor, Boeing Co, has undertaken this task, confirming the platform as operationally healthy until at least 2028.
On July 26, three senators – the Texan Republicans Ted Cruz and Democrats Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Bill Nelson of Florida – bill in to keep the ISS operational by 2030.  "It would be foolish to waste this investment, to be brief, to invent an arbitrary deadline like 2025 and say," We do not mind that we had extra good, productive use, "Cruz told them Summer at a hearing referring to the future of the station.
International partners contribute 23 percent of the ISS's annual operating costs.
Of which, operations and maintenance total around $ 1.1 billion.
Boeing itself has said it has been deterred by 30 percent of its operating income since 2008.
The company has a $ 1.2 billion contract for ISS work by September 2020.
"You can save $ 100 million here Save $ 100 or $ 100 million. Said Michael Suffredi ni, a former NASA engineer who led the space station for 13 years
"It's the transportation costs" from and to the ISS that make up most of their costs.
One of the critically unanswered questions is NASA itself said in a March 2018 report how to "transform" the space station into a commercial future: Will the industry be able to create "self-sustaining business cases"? to work in near-earth orbit?
Probably not] "We do not have the capacity for commercial opportunities with the ISS, but the likelihood that these opportunities will finance the entire ISS by 2025 is very small," said Jim Chilton, Boeing's senior vice president Space and Launch Division, held in June in a Senate Subcommittee hearing on the ISS.
If a company stepped forward and assumed the role of the ISS landlord, Boeing would be one of the leading contenders with its long history and its close knowledge of the space station.
"We keep going" NASA's plans to transform the ISS into a commercial future, "said Boeing spokesman Steven Siceloff.
" We are also working on using the ISS to understand and understand it promote the commercial market. "
Even if NASA had found a commercial partner, it certainly would have required a robust financial infusion from the government to make the station viable.
" And if you have that (guarantee) how are you Not? "Eliminating and eliminating private investment" in other projects aimed at creating a truly commercial space market, said Jeff Manber, CEO of NanoRacks LLC, which provides hardware and services for research on board the space station.
"You must make sure that they set criteria so that this subsidized company will not be able to take away business from truly commercial businesses in the future," said Sufredini, founder and CEO of Axiom Space, one of these guys Plans to be a private space station and a luxury resort.
The Space Station is already a unique research and development environment for a variety of companies.
A Massachusetts-based biotech startup Angiex Inc plans to begin researching its vascular cancer therapy this summer at ISS. Delta Faucet Co plans to begin testing water flows and droplet formation in zero gravity onboard the spacecraft in November this year, hoping to reduce water consumption while still providing a satisfactory shower.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Procter & Gamble Co., and Merck & Co have all used the station for research, including Merck's use of microgravity last year to study new manufacturing techniques for their cancer drug Keytruda.
Such companies need stability and a fixed timeframe before they are ready to use The research station, Cynthia Bouthot, director of commercial innovation and the CASIS program running the lab, said at the June hearing.
"They are not looking at a one-shot deal they are looking at a research roadmap, especially when we talk about our pharmaceutical companies that are working," she said.
Notwithstanding the possible fate of the Space Station, NASA, Congress, and the private industry, there is almost unanimous agreement that the United States needs a continued research platform in a near-Earth orbit.
Said Suffredi: "We do not want to lose the ISS before there is a replacement else." – WP-BLOOM