Home / Science / Ex-NASA astronaut says it would not be so bad to transfer space station to private management

Ex-NASA astronaut says it would not be so bad to transfer space station to private management

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When it became known that the Trump government wanted to end state funding for the International Space Station by 2025, resistance to the idea was quick and energetic.

In a rare indication of how unpopular it was, two senators from the opposition parties ̵

1; Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida and Republican Ted Cruz of Texas – immediately opposed the proposal contained in the President's budget bill in 2019. 19659005] But former NASA astronaut Sandy Magnus said that leaving the space station could be seen as a sign of progress toward the ultimate goal of sending people into the solar system. By transferring ISS management to the private sector, she said, NASA could still reserve space to continue its low-Earth orbit research while focusing more on places like the Moon and Mars.

"It's a question of NASA owners of the building or is it leasing the building?" Said Magnus, who spent four months on the space station in 2008 and 2009. It's "neither good nor bad, it's the next stage in evolution, but we have to do it well." [19659005] After leaving NASA, Magnus became Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a position she held until January. She talked with the Los Angeles Times about the pros and cons of NASA stopping the space station.

Q. What kind of research is taking place on the International Space Station?

A. It's all about microbiology, biology and biochemistry, animal experiments, human studies, materials science and combustion science, geosciences and space science. Also psychology and human behavior.

Q. Why is it important to do this research in space?

A. There are many things we learn in microgravity about how cells behave, how human physiology changes, how materials can form, how fluids function, and how combustion processes work that we can not learn on Earth because of gravity is so terrible (19659005) It is really, trust me

Q. And it's not just science, it's engineering too?

A. Law. If we want to expand manned spacecraft beyond low earth orbit, we need to find out all the global systems that work naturally on Earth and figure out how we mechanically design them to work with spacecraft.

If you go to the moon, or to Mars, or even one day, you need your own closed system to support life. We test that on the space station.

Q. Would the White House's suggestion that the space station not finance directly after 2024 be detrimental to this kind of research?

A. The question of the future of the space station is: How do we maintain a scientific research and technology development platform, but expand our capabilities, so that not only the government has this platform or 100 percent use? Theoretically, the White House plan is not bad, but its execution will be critical.

Q. Are private companies working together with the space station?

A. It happens in a few different capacities. In general, the types of companies that use the station for research and development are biology companies, microbiology companies and pharmaceutical companies. Partly because they are systems that behave very differently in microgravity. Also, the experiments are easy to go up and down.

But we are still at the beginning of developing a market of people who want to go to space if they are not subsidized by the government. Who will do research there? How can we arrange that not only the government rent a building, but the government rents a building that other people rent?

Q. Do you know any companies that are ready to take over the management of the space station?

A. Even now, the space station is not operated solely by NASA. There are other companies like Boeing who have contracts with NASA to manage them. Two companies, Bigelow Aerospace and Axiom Space, are interested in bringing a commercial lab to the space station, but I do not know if they are able to take full control of the whole.

Q. What is good about the private sector being involved in the space station?

A. As more companies and people enter the Earth orbit in research and development, I think we will get more creative ideas, both in terms of the basic science we can do there and what products we can create in space I understood how gravity got into my physical and technical equations. But when you go to weightlessness and actually see how things behave differently, then you understand it on a different level.

If we can get more people up there, this will be the key point to make people understand, "Oh, I can do this experiment." "Oh, I can develop this product." Or, "I could investigate this question that would help people on Earth."

Q. The US has several international government partners who share management of the ISS. If NASA privatizes its part, what happens to them?

A. That's a big question mark. These discussions have already started, and I think that you will see a lot of variety on this topic over the next six to nine months because nobody knows what it will look like. This is a very interesting creative moment in which we are.

Q. Does the fact that a company operates the space station and not the government contaminates its mission?

A. Do not look at it as a private industry or government. You have to look at it as a private industry and government.

If we put more people in low Earth orbit, so the government does not have to spend so much time there, then the government can use its resources as deeply as possible orbitally back to the Moon and finally to Mars and maybe in 100 years too Europe.

Further information:
US wants to privatize International Space Station: report

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