According to Ars Technica Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, has announced that the space agency is looking in moving on from the International Space Station and start bringing humans in cislunar space the area of space closer to the moon. The agency just does not have enough money to have both the ISS and continue exploring space so it is hopeful the private sector will take over. If not, ISS will be left to fall into the Pacific Ocean.
NASA says it would like to see the private space industry “take over” low-Earth orbit, although it acknowledges that any successor space station or orbiting module will be far smaller than the $140 billion space station, a collaboration between 15 countries. The message from NASA to the US industry is simple: we’re serious about the commercialization of low-Earth orbit, we have this marvelous facility available with unique capabilities, and we want you to use the heck out of it.
No one really knows what innovations may come from working in microgravity. Financially, does it make sense to fabricate delicate nanostructures or grow protein crystals there? Other opportunities for commercial development include space tourism, industry, and marketing. Some of these ideas will work, and some will fail. Companies should find out now by experimenting on the station while it exists, NASA officials say, and while the space agency is paying for most of the costs.
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