The Trump Administration has big plans for space exploration – primarily to boost the private space industry and to return the United States to space dominance.
In his inaugural address on January 20th, President Trump vowed to “unlock the mysteries of space.” Congress could help with this promise by securing funding for the Space Launch System – a rocket booster that is vital to NASA’s proposed missions to the moon and Mars.
Many Republicans argue that NASA should not be involved in Earth science, and it is possible that Trump will redirect the $2+ billion NASA currently spends on global warming science to space exploration.
“The draft NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 maintains continuity of purpose across a broad array of NASA programs and initiatives,” explains Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX). “It continues support for a robust and well-planned human exploration program that includes not only the Space Launch System and Orion programs but also commercial crew and cargo programs, among others.”
These other programs will be important in the near future. As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich explains, “The Trump Administration would like a lot more aggressive, risk-taking, competitive entrepreneurial approach to space.”
The Trump Administration seems torn between the entrepreneurs that represent “new space” and the entitles (like NASA) that we identify with “old space.”
The situation is a “big fight,” admits former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Robert Walker. “There are billions of dollars at stake. It has come to a head now when it has become clear to the space community that the real innovative work is being done outside NASA.”
According to Politico, Trump’s goals include the creation of privately owned space stations, an “affordable” return to the moon by 2020, and the claiming of properties on the moon for US citizens.
The administration’s ambitious vision could “see private American astronauts, on private space ships, circling the moon by 2020; and private lunar landers staking out de facto ‘property rights’ for Americans on the moon, by 2020 as well,” reads a plan drawn up by the president’s transition team.
These proposed strategies appeal to President Trump’s business background and have the potential to ignite an entirely new industry.
President Trump has not yet announced his pick for NASA director, but many expect him to choose Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) – a Navy vet and the former head of the Air and Space Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Editor’s note: NASA is one of the most successful agencies ever to exist, but President Trump the next phase has to be built by commercial enterprises with a profit motive. When we can start bringing profitable resources back to Earth from space, the space industry will be self sustaining forever.