The new NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is talking with international companies this week about the prospect of selling all or part of the International Space Station off to private companies, Jim claims to have heard a lot of interest in managing the station from these companies. While it is wholly possible that this statement is intended more to create demand than state its existence. I for one hope it does exist.
NASA’s financial involvement in the International Space Station is due to end in 2025, it is by then that commercial management must be in place or the expensive station will simply burn to dust in our atmosphere.
Simply put space needs to be profitable.
We have come to the realization that it is possible from a science and engineering standpoint to have things like moon bases, space stations, missions to mars, etc. But in reality, if we expect NASA to do it all on their own, then it will only ever be one mission at a time. NASA needs to act as a nursery for commercial enterprises to spawn such as with SpaceX & Blue Origin. But the demand needs to be there, the money.
SpaceX has done very well financially in their efforts to standardize launches of satellites and ISS support missions into low earth orbit. If the plans for BFR come to fruition and we ever wind up with a true earth to earth suborbital passenger spaceflight industry, then the costs of space missions mean simply paying for the diverting a commercial flight. Parts would be standardized, Maintenance procedures standardized, The availability of trained personnel would increase. This is the facepalm slappingly obvious way of operating in space.
But where would this leave NASA? Would NASA fade away into obscurity? Would they do missions at all? I hope so. In my mind at least there is plenty of room for NASA to exist and even operate their own missions in this world. NASA’s mission has always been of breaking frontiers and pushing science boundaries. Today those boundaries are further off, which means NASA must follow. That would mean more planetary science and less interest in the Earth/Moon system. It would seem that today at least the NASA leadership gets it. What do you think? How what should NASA be focused on and much commercial involvement is a good thing, Tell me in the comments below.