U.S. lawmakers discussing future of International Space Station

U.S. lawmakers discussing future of International Space Station

As the two-decade-old International Space Station (ISS) is facing key questions about its future, a key Republican representative has cautioned that long-term sponsorship of the space station could hamper the United States’ goal of sending humans to Mars.

The aging outpost requires the nation to spend $3 to $4 billion annually to maintain its operations. Some partner-nations may also step aside in the coming few years.

Texas Republican Rep. Brian Babin, who chairs a key House Science, Space & Technology subcommittee, said continuing the ISS mission after 2024 would come at a cost.

During a hearing on Wednesday, he said, “We ought to be aware that remaining on the ISS will come at a cost (beyond 2024). That cost means trade-offs with other NASA priorities. What opportunities will we miss if we maintain the status quo? ... The longer we operate the ISS, the longer it will take to get to Mars.”

However, many lawmakers like Eric Stallmer, the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, are of the view that the nation should extend its commitment to the ISS to at least 2028.

Supporters say keeping the ISS operational is “critical” to the continued maturity of the commercial space industry as well as deep-space missions in the future.