Will a Donald Trump Presidency Free NASA?
The media has been critical on the policies that Donald Trump holds for space. But as the president-elect will be inaugurated on 20th January in 2017, his focus will be on NASA. To be more specific, he will pay a special attention to space exploration, just like he had indicated in a speech late October.
The 45th president of the United States maintains that the Obama-Clinton administration has done nothing but undermined space programs. He says that things are going to change under his tenure. The change will come before it gets too late.
An anti-science president?
After his victory, some scientists were quick to react, terming him as an “anti-science” president. The director of public affairs for the American Physical Society in Washington DC, Michael Lubell, spoke to Nature saying: “Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had, the consequences are going to be very, very severe.”
But contrary to what some of these Democrats claim, Trump is actually not opposed to science. In fact, he is in full support of NASA and all its programs. However, he purposes to change the focus of the agency.
During a Florida rally in October, Mr. Trump said that as a president, he would expand “public and private partnerships” with the intention of increasing exploration and development. This is a complete positive direction that NASA will take. At the moment, the body is transporting cargo to International Space Station with the help of Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The new president’s look of private partnerships is indeed accepted by many in this sector. For example, the European Space Agency has plans to broaden its partners.
So, what are his space plans?
The president-elect explained his NASA plans where he said that he will seek to maximize investment and funding to facilitate apace exploration and development. The implication of this is that he will be able to launch significant space assets, create thousands of employment opportunities and facilitate economic growth.
While being interviewed by SpaceNews, Mr. Trump said that his business skills teaches him that there are science breakthrough which could not have become a reality had it not been for space programmes. He said that the Congress will be central in ensuring that scientific priorities are met.
The Republican presidential candidate went on to say that he intends to make a comprehensive review of NASA’s plans and adjust them where necessary. With such views, what is he likely to bring onboard? Will he see the building of a new moon base for deep space exploration? Will the agency be able to exploit asteroids? And to do all these, who will be cut to free NASA?
Will it be Mars or Moon?
Basing on what Donald Trump has been saying in his campaign, we can describe his space plans in four words: visionary, disruptive, coordinating and resilient.
He has shown interest to hand over the operations of low Earth-orbit to private industry. Already SpaceX and Orbital ATK are flying robotic cargo missions to the space station for NASA now, and SpaceX and Boeing are scheduled to begin ferrying American astronauts to and from the orbiting lab in the next year or two.
NASA currently has a 2024 commitment for a space station. But the field’s experts have expressed interest to free NASA from financial obligation. These cash can then be utilized in sending more humans to further places in the universe.
Chances are the new government is going to focus on further space exploration. President Barack Obama gave an instruction that NASA should send humans to the Red Planet but Mr. Trump may come in with more changes.
Experts speculate that NASA may seek to ensure that humans have a long term presence on or close to the moon before progressing to Mars. That may be contrary to what Barack wanted. He nixed a human return to the moon, instead directing NASA to use a visit to a near-Earth asteroid as a “stepping stone” to Mars.
For more humans to be on the moon, then a lot of world collaboration will be required. Now, the implementation of this will be one task that the Trump administration will have to face.