Trump's NASA budget focuses on Moon with an eye towards Mars

The space station now is authorized through 2024 and while many at NASA believe the outpost's lifetime could be extended at least another four years to 2028, no such decisions have been made by the United States and its worldwide partners - Russia, the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan.

While the Trump administration intends to end funding for the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024, it's not necessarily destined to be completely abandoned - or even removed from orbit.

The US government would create a $150m programme to help prepare private companies to take over space station operations over the next seven years, according to the document.

President Donald Trump's 2019 budget request envisions NASA working closely with the private sector on every level, from outsourcing ground-to-space communications to landing on the moon, while focusing its own efforts on technology to take people into deep space. This hugely expensive program - which unlike SpaceX rockets, has no reusable parts - would receive $3.7 billion, close to 20 percent of NASA's entire budget.

To support and facilitate a transition to a commercially-focused platform in the mid 2020s, one in which NASA could be one of several users, "the administration is proposing to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 under the current NASA-directed operating model".

The International Space Station was photographed from the space shuttle Atlantis as a shuttle departed the orbiting complex for the final time in the early hours of July 19, 2011.

If all goes according to plan, the agency will launch a "power and propulsion space tug", a component of NASA's planned outpost in near-moon space, in 2022. "Turning off the lights and walking away from our sole outpost in space at a time when we're pushing the frontiers of exploration makes no sense".

Beginning during the presidency of George W Bush (2001- 2009), NASA has subcontracted certain ISS support operations, starting with the supply flights now carried out by the SpaceX and Orbital ATK companies - a trend that gained speed during the Obama presidency.

"Also, the 2019 budget proposal wants to give $10.5bn for an innovative and sustainable campaign of exploration" which would lead to the return of humans to the moon for long-term exploration as well as utilization followed by human missions to Mars and beyond that, as per a NASA review.

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft connecting to the International Space Station in 2013. No man has returned to the moon since December 11th, 1972, during the Apollo 17 mission.

Lightfoot ended things by saying we are once again on a path to return to the Moon with an eye towards Mars. WFIRST was a mission that the National Academies of Science listed as the decade's No. 1 priority for future NASA astrophysics missions. The proposed budget would continue support for those endeavors, NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot said Monday. The budget for the mission was already being trimmed down after it was found to be getting too costly.

  • Joey Payne