The US government is reportedly looking to cut funding to the International Space Station by 2025 according to newly leaked documents.
In a leaked draft of a US budget proposal obtained by The Verge, the US appears to be willing to end its support for the hugely expensive space station in just over six years.
Such a funding cut, if indeed official, would create serious doubt regarding the future of the ISS, as well as how committed the country is to having a permanent presence in space into the next decade.
So far the ISS has cost the United States $87bn to build and operate, with an additional $3-4bn being spent each year to keep it staffed and running.
Additional costs involved with the ISS are offset by the program’s foreign partners such as Russia, Japan and the European Union, making it in totality, one of the most expensive projects ever attempted by mankind.
This being said, the space station has been very useful from a scientific perspective and has greatly improved our understanding of how humans can survive in space, as well as how materials perform in microgravity.
As the first modules of the ISS were launched into space in the 1990s, the space station itself is slowly approaching its used-by date.
Nonetheless, many had hoped that the US would once again extend its funding of the program until 2028, which most regard as the longest period of time it can be safely operated.
As well, a longer operational time would give countries like the US the ability to develop new alternatives for space habitation, such as the inflatable BA-330 habitat developed by Bigelow Aerospace.
Finally, leaving the space station operational for a longer period of time would see that the Commercial Crew Program still has a place to send astronauts to in space. This program has already seen billions of dollars of investment by Nasa in cooperation with companies such as SpaceX and Boeing.
Under the new Trump Administration, however, NASA is seeking to pivot away from the ISS program and instead direct funds into manned programs to return to the Moon, and eventually send astronauts to Mars.
NASA for their part has not officially confirmed that ISS funding will end by 2025, nor has it started where it would redirect such funds to.