Private Industry Funding ISS

International Space Station

Statement of the Issue

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States (U.S.) has for quite some time now been trying to match its ambitions with its budgets. The space station is considered by many as an engineering feat or marvel; however it did not come inexpensively. The U.S. government has spent nearly a hundred billion dollars in the space program, and is still providing funding to the tune of three billion dollars a year for the station's upkeep. Space policy makers warn that, in the absence of any substantial boost to the budget, NASA will not have sufficient funding to keep the space station running and simultaneously embark on expensive deep-space probe missions. The United States and its allies, therefore need to make a tough choice: whether to continue supporting the space station, or to pursue the only other alternative, of bringing it down (Achenbach, 2013)?

Alternate points-of-view for the problem

After more than twenty years of planning, designing, and production of the International Space Station (ISS) and barely 3 years into the station's operational phase, the station is facing a public relation crisis. The ISS program, led by NASA, is the largest ever global technology project in the history of the world, one in which Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia, and the U.S. expect to invest more than a hundred billion dollars by the end of ten years. Moreover, NASA's International Space Station operations, research, and transportation costs are approximated at roughly three billion dollars annually for the coming period up to 2020. This figure does not include potential research expenses that would be incurred by NASA's other space station partners. Up to now, this expenditure has fully met at least one of the main goals of the Space Station, and that is to bring together a coalition of internal partners, including Russia, in the pursuit of a joint scientific endeavours. The 2nd overall goal for the ISS is to get these station partners to regard the station as a platform or a springboard for future space exploration; this goal, however, is yet to realized. The partners have not agreed yet on a common destination - the moon, Mars, or an asteroid. On the positive side, after more than twenty years of working together, all partners agree that the ISS consortium is a model example of ways to move forward cooperatively (Svitak, 2012).

More difficult to accomplish is the ISS's third goal of industrial and scientific research. This aspect is regarded by budget-strained governments of the U.S., Japan, and the European partner countries as not having materialized. Over the last ten years, as the building of the International Space Station got underway, budgetary limitation led NASA to abandon the physical and life sciences portfolios that were most likely to produce results from the immeasurable research opportunities on the space station. Since the year 2003, NASA's spending on physical and life sciences research decreased by about five hundred million dollars to about two hundred million dollars in the year 2010. Reports say that NASA's current program has been reduced to lower than critical mass. This budget program is regarded by those outside the space agency as lacking in the resources and stature needed to achieve any meaningful science progress, or even to attract researchers. Under fiscal pressure to prove the station's real world value, the executives from the partner nations who were attending a recent symposium, stated that it was not fair to demand that rapid results from any infrastructure that was set aside for basic research. However, in spite of being operational for a period not surpassing three years, ISS seems old, as was noted by Jean-Jacques Dordain, the managing director of the European Space Agency (ESA), because it took over ten years to complete after its 1st module was launched in the year 1998 (Svitak, 2012).

Analysis of the pertinent literature, data, or theories

The ISS has been instrumental in fundamental science, allowing the creation and building of…