The White House wishes to make International Space Station (ISS) a commercial venture run by private industry that may cut US Government's huge funding for the costly programme within a few years, The Washington Post reported.
In its budget request to be released Monday, the administration would request $150 million in fiscal year 2019, with more in additional years, "to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS-potentially including elements of the ISS-are operational when they are needed".
The proposal is likely to face public disapproval, as it had taken the US almost 100 billion dollars to construct and operate the ISS, the newspaper added.
The station, which travels at about 17,500 miles an hour at an altitude of 248 miles, costs about $1.1 billion a year to operate and maintain. He said the decision was the result of "numbskulls" at the Office of Management and Budget.
"It will be very hard to turn ISS into a truly commercial outpost because of the global agreements that the United States is involved in", he said.
On Sunday, he issued another statement saying that "handing over a rare national asset to commercial enterprises before the private sector is ready to support it could have disastrous consequences for American leadership in space and for the chances of building space-focused private enterprise". "It's inherently always going to be an global construct that requires US government involvement and multinational cooperation".
The spacecraft, known as Progress MS-08 in Russian Federation, is carrying 3 tons of food, fuel and other supplies for the station's six-person Expedition 54 crew and was scheduled to make a superfast 3.5-hour trip to the orbiting lab after liftoff. NASA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. NASA now spends about $3-4 billion per years to run it, and the government has spent around $100 billion on it total since the ISS was first launched into low-Earth orbit in 1998.
Selling off the station wouldn't be the first time NASA has handed its responsibilities over to the private sector.