The sky-lab, known as the international space station, has been there for the last two decades. It was set up jointly by the United States and Russia with the participation of the European Space Agency and other countries like Canada and Japan. The station is expected to be in operation for another decade to provide a common international platform for carrying out space research.

However, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that this sky-lab could be handed over to private operators. During the tenure of President George W. Bush, it was decided to involve private parties like SpaceX and Orbital ATK to undertake work of supplying cargo to the ISS.

Subsequently, President Barack Obama hired Boeing and SpaceX to fly astronauts there. Now, the Trump administration wants to offload the lab to private operators.

ISS will lose its uniqueness

It is a fact that NASA is squeezed for funds, and the White House plans to end direct federal support to the station after 2024. However, the International Space Station is not the property of only the United States. There are other countries involved and whoever acquires it will have to ensure that continuity is maintained. ISS is basically a laboratory designed to carry out space research on various aspects of surviving in alien conditions and it will lose its uniqueness once it is remodeled as a commercial enterprise.

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, plans to colonize the red planet. There are others like Mars One who have inducted volunteers to travel there on a one-way ticket. When it comes to the Moon, several countries have expressed their interest in miming it for minerals to sell on Earth. Then there is the space tourism of Virgin Galactic and a Russian luxury hotel in space.

All of them would have to rely on the ISS to provide necessary logistic support.

What experts say

Once the International Space Station becomes a commercial platform under private entities, it would have to abide by the dictates of the owner and his terms. NASA has private partners like SpaceX but they are meant to handle specific activities.

In the opinion of Andrew Rush, the chief executive of Made In Space, the ISS has been built basically for space research and not for seeking profit. He is the CEO of a company that is a part of ISS because it manufactures objects on the space station by using 3D printing technology.

Frank Slazer is another expert who feels opening the doors to private participation could pose problems with the international partners of ISS. It would also rob the United States of its leadership and harm the interests of science.