Experts say the United States needs to start planning immediately to replace the International Space Station.

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Experts say the United States needs to start planning immediately to replace the International Space Station.

Policymakers cautioned Congress on Tuesday that failing to act fast to extend the International Space Station’s existence beyond 2030 and build other space stations would result in a costly hiatus in space exploration.

Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, argued during a House hearing held remotely Tuesday morning that abandoning the space station, which is set to be decommissioned in 2028, without replacements will only benefit China, which already has a new space station in orbit.

“If they [China] are the only game in town, other countries would seek to collaborate with them in order to acquire access to space. This would jeopardize America’s strategic leadership, according to Babin.

The testimony was provided to the House Space and Science Subcommittee, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va.

Although the group did not make any formal financial or policy recommendations, Beyer stated that it was critical to address the space station’s mission and future funding demands “with eyes wide open.”

According to Robyn Gatens, NASA’s director of the space station, NASA invited bids and received more than ten from American companies interested in building and launching new orbiting homes.

NASA alone spends $3 billion to $4 billion per year on the International Space Station, and Gatens estimates that relying on private space stations would save the agency up to $1 billion each year.

“Extending the ISS’s operation could offer private industry more time to build the capabilities and experience needed to operate in [low-Earth orbit] and install platforms that will suit NASA and other customers’ needs,” Gatens said.

“NASA anticipates a two-year transition period during which both the ISS and commercial… destinations will be operational.”

However, officials from the space sector have stated that Congress must appropriately support NASA in order to stimulate the expansion of commercial activity in space.

If not, the United States’ space program might face a gap similar to the nine-year gap between the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011 and SpaceX’s astronaut flight to the International Space Station in 2020, according to Jeffrey Manber, CEO of Houston-based space firm Nanoracks.

“Today, the task of ensuring a seamless transition is more critical than it was with the shuttle, since our reliance on space assets is significantly greater,” Manber said.

“I have no apprehensions about cooperating and competing with China, but we cannot allow even the impression that we will cede 20 percent or more… Article Summary from Nokia News

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