back to article NASA wants to sell International Space Station to private enterprise

NASA has signalled its intention to offload the International Space Station (ISS) some time in the 2020s. News of the sale appeared in the video below, at about the 14:15 mark when Bill Hill, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, ponders the ISS' role in future missions. “Ultimately our …

  1. The_Idiot

    OK. So...

    ... let's face it. Tropical island with secret base inside fake volcano? Meh. Passé. Your own, very own, like, for real _space_station_? With or without mysterious mind control rays, space going sharks with, like, beamy-things _much_ better than boring old lasers and/ or roving space ships that can swallow shuttles whole?

    Er - honey? Could you buy me an extra lottery ticket or 999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 while you're out dear? Muahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    Oh. Right. Supplies. I guess I need access to a fleet of proven private enterprise launch vessels... Wonder where i could find some?

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: OK. So...

      The tropical island with a secret base is just one of the six components needed. The space station is another one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OK. So...

        Make sure you still have enough money left to bring Richard Kiel back from the dead.

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: OK. So...

      In other news, obscure aerospace outfit Drax Industries expressed a "strong interest" today in purchasing the ISS.

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Re: OK. So...

        Who needs Hugo Drax when we already have an airship, airline, high speed boat, media, volcanic island hideaway owning beelionaire with his very own spaceport and fleet of space ships?

  2. ShelLuser
    Black Helicopters

    How long before...

    Google steps in, starts developing specific laser technology and before you know we'll be "enjoying" region targeted advertisements in the night sky clouds. Time for the black helicopter ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How long before...

      Google steps in, starts developing specific laser technology

      At first I thought you were advocating a Laser Launch System as described in 'High Justice' by Jerry Pournelle.

      Then you spoil it with ads.

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Happy

    Time to open a used space station business then. The commission from just selling one (the only one) would be sufficient to retire to a tropical paradise.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe

    Musk should buy it and use it as a stepping stone to the Moon and beyond..

    1. Graham Dawson

      Re: Maybe

      The station's orbit is inclined far too high for that. One of the comprises required to get the Russians involved was that it had to pass over their launch sites, otherwise the fuel costs to align their launchers with the station would have been prohibitively expensive. Unfortunately that means it can't be used as a way station to the moon for the same reason.

      1. Julz

        Re: Maybe

        If you didn't need Russian launches then you could change the inclination of the orbit.

    2. Esme

      Re: Maybe

      @AC - Nah, no point Elon buying that old thing. The ISS is old tech. Better to buy some Bligelow Aerospace B330's and build a new station. Weight for weight, the B330's give better protection and more volume.

      If they can sell the ISS to some concern wanting to make use of it for research, all well and good, but failing that its best use might be as a museum for visiting tourists - with itself as the largest exhibit. IMHO.

      1. Conundrum1885

        Re: Maybe

        I have a fix for the orbit issue, to be discussed when the patent application gets approved.

  5. Tromos
    Joke

    I'd go for it...

    ...but the bank is grumbling about the size of the mortgage and you wouldn't believe how much the surveyor wants to charge.

  6. tkioz

    Err... forgive me if I'm wrong but isn't the International Space Station you know *International*, does NASA even have the right to sell it? It's bad enough that space exploration has basically withered on the vine as governments give it up as too hard and expect private companies to step in, but giving up the one *real* presence we have in the heavens as well?

    As much as I respect Musk and SpaceX and their ilk I'm very uncomfortable letting some an important element of our future fall into the hands of private companies.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      What could possibly go wrong with encouraging Weyland-Yutani to build a Gateway station?

    2. Alister Silver badge

      Err... forgive me if I'm wrong but isn't the International Space Station you know *International*, does NASA even have the right to sell it?

      Don't worry, It's "International" only in the sense that the "World Series" only has teams from North America.

      Joking apart, you raise a fair point, as whilst NASA is by far the majority stakeholder, they have only paid for about half the total cost of the build and ongoing funding.

    3. Alister Silver badge

      Sorry to reply to you twice, but this has only just struck me:

      As much as I respect Musk and SpaceX and their ilk I'm very uncomfortable letting some an important element of our future fall into the hands of private companies.

      Do you not see this as an opportunity for Space travel to finally become mainstream?

      If you look back at the history of all the world's transport infrastructure, from ships, to railways, to cars, to aircraft, most of the innovation and funding necessary for the advancement of the technology has come from private companies, or even, on occasion, private individuals.

      The advancement of space travel has not followed the traditional path of most of those other modes of transport, because it was hijacked by political interests to score points, which gave us the Apollo missions and the Shuttle.

      Normally, a new method of transport would start with a few eccentric entrepreneurs, then would become a plaything or diversion for the rich, and finally would attract sufficient commercial investment for it to become available to the masses. This is how cars, railways and aircraft developed, and is how space travel should have developed.

      We are now seeing the beginnings of the first stage of this with Musk and Bezos, and Branson is offering the second stage, of being a rich man's toy with his proposed Virgin Galactic flights to LEO.

      What we need now is more long term commercial investment in space hardware, until we have the equivalent of Ford or Boeing building spacecraft on a production line.

    4. cray74 Silver badge

      Err... forgive me if I'm wrong but isn't the International Space Station you know *International*, does NASA even have the right to sell it?

      I doubt the sale is for the entire station, since other nations clearly exhibit attitudes of ownership toward their contributions. A year ago, Russia was planning to take its modules and make its own station in 2024.

  7. Yesnomaybe

    Kickstarter?

    Should we try to buy it? I mean; With The Register's experience with high altitude space-planes, this seems like the next logical step.

  8. -tim
    Alert

    Trying to avoid de-orbit costs?

    The thing is going to be a mess to de-orbit. It is way too large, in a bad orbit and low enough to make planning very difficult.

    When it does come down, I wonder if it will hit Skylab pieces.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trying to avoid de-orbit costs?

      What are the chances that whoever owns it when it reaches end-of-life will declare bankruptcy and leave the taxpayer to pick up the tab for sorting out the mess ?

      1. John70

        Re: Trying to avoid de-orbit costs?

        Or insure it for 5-10 times it's value and "suddenly gets hit by an asteroid"...

    2. Suricou Raven

      Re: Trying to avoid de-orbit costs?

      How hard can it be to hit a target the size of the Pacific?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only the likes of Facebook, Google & Microsoft etc...

    Were less concerned with Ad-Slinging / Data-Slurping & Surveillance-Capitalism, and more interested in 'The Right Stuff'. Musk is disliked, but he does do interesting things.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Does it have a frickin lazor on it?"

    "If so i'd be interested in taking it off your hands."

    Yours faithfully

    Dr Evil

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe the UK should buy it and those that voted for Brexit . . . . .

    1. Yesnomaybe

      Well, actually...

      ...with all that money we saved, we could probably afford several!

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Well, actually...

        B. ark

        Telephone sanitisers etc

      2. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Re: Well, actually...

        "...with all that money we saved, we could probably afford several!"

        Indeed, we have £350,000,000 a week to spend on all the toys we like. Then we can spend it again on the NHS and again on massive tax cuts. O Brave New World!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Location, location, location

    a special edition in which we see Kirstie & Phil accidentally blown out of an air lock without their helmets.

  13. Denarius Silver badge
    Unhappy

    dont think this will end well

    more outsourcing with massive overheads. Never ended well with the "cost saving" government having to pick up ruins and cleanup mess at twice the cost of keeping ownership. Literally. This explains why China has announced plans for their own government owned and controlled space station.

  14. dorsetknob
    Alien

    Reply Icon

    Err... forgive me if I'm wrong but isn't the International Space Station you know *International*, does NASA even have the right to sell it?

    Excuse me but Yeh

    NASA as an commercial capitalist ARM Of the USA ( United States of 'Arth ) Can Sell its Bits of space station Off to the highest Bidder

    Cavet

    """ Buyer Beware Warranty is over the Doorstep or over the horizon "" ( about 90 min )

    Icon is photo ID of Latest Bidder

  15. mhenriday
    Pint

    A hostile (?) take-over bid

    might well arrive from a Chinese firm - wonder how those troglodytes (those that are left now that Frank Rudolph Wolf has retired) in the US Congress, who have prevented a Chinese presence on the poorly-named International Space Station, would react to that ?...

    Henri

  16. Daz555

    It's an old space station and probably has damp. I'm out.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hang on a feakin minute!

    are the American Taxpayers who funded this Galactic White Elephant going to see any money if, IF NASA can flog it off?

  18. Not That Andrew

    Don't the ESA Japanese and Russians get a say in this?

  19. Tom 64

    A good idea

    Better than just trying burning it up over the pacific and giving the remainder to the fish.

  20. Stoneshop Silver badge

    For sale: Space station, several owners, billions of miles travelled

    Well, 3.50 and a kick in the nuts, and only if NASA can show a valid MoT plus maintenance records

  21. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    What he said..

    I agree with what Tom64 said... there is the issue of the station being international. US, Russia, ESA (European Space Agency), Japan, all have modules on the station. But if they all decide they are not going to be using the station sometime in the 2020s (not too unlikely, given how MIR held up it'll be getting a bit rough by then), they might as well sell it rather than just mothball it if there are interested buyers.

  22. herman Silver badge

    To get that clunker sold, they will have to wind the clock back many millions of kilometers.

  23. Lotaresco Silver badge
    Coat

    There is precedent...

    For years HMG has been selling obsolete military installations to private buyers. While it's true that most of them end up as data centres, document storage depots etc. some of them end up slightly more interesting.

    Forts and former gun platforms are repurposed as knocking shops bijou hotels for those who rent rooms by the hour. There are also casinos, restaurants and other types of pleasure palace built in suitably difficult-to-get-into premises. I'm sure Mr Branson could find many well-heeled punters who would like the chance of a zero-g Ugandan encounter who would not flinch at paying the requisite meeelions for the pleasure.

  24. JJKing Bronze badge
    Childcatcher

    Think green and recycle (applies to 2nd paragraph).

    We are now seeing the beginnings of the first stage of this with Musk and Bezos, and Branson is offering the second stage, of being a rich man's toy with his proposed Virgin Galactic flights to LEO.

    Just one point to add to the above and that is that aviation travel was originally only experienced by the very wealthy. It didn't take that long until it became more affordable and now it is cheaper to fly between cities than it is to take the taxi to the bloody airport. The rich man's space travel will eventually become affordable for the great unwashed. Warp factor 0.00001. Make it so.

    As for the ISS, that is a lot of heavy type material that has been blasted into space. Shame it couldn't be cannibalised for use in the Mars mission or "moved" to the moon and used there. Why burn it up on re-entry and waste it.

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