Donald Trump’s administration is looking to end the United States’ direct support for the International Space Station (ISS) program by 2025, as evidenced by a leak of its recent draft budget proposal.
The move seeks to free up federal funds for future lunar exploration projects. Trump’s newly formed National Space Council is shifting the focus of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from the ISS to a new lunar mission. The administration also seeks to establish a space station, called Deep Space Gateway, in the vicinity of the moon.
The budget proposal, which was prepared by the White House Office of Management and Budget, included a space exploration objective that says “Ending direct federal government support of the ISS by 2025 and transitioning to commercial provision of low Earth orbit (LEO) capabilities.”
The official budget proposal will be released on Feb. 12, and it will be reviewed by the Congress, who will have the final decision on the budget.
At present, NASA spends around $4 billion annually to support the ISS and the astronauts being housed there. In the past, the agency spent almost $100 billion over a decade to construct the space station.
NASA did not comment on the leaked budget proposal but said that the partnership between NASA and the ISS continues. “NASA and the International Space Station partnership is committed to full scientific and technical research on the orbiting laboratory, as it is the foundation on which we will extend human presence deeper into space,” said a NASA spokesperson. “We will not comment on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the President’s FY19 budget.”
During the administration of former president Barrack Obama, funding for the ISS was approved through 2024. However, beyond that, the fate of the station would be uncertain.
Although the U.S. provides most of its funding, the space station is also owned and operated by Russia, Japan, Canada, and 22 European countries, which contribute a combined $1 billion per year to the ISS funding.