Less than one week after proposing a budget that cuts funding from nearly every government agency, President Trump signed a NASA funding bill that increases the space agency’s FY2018 budget to $19.5 billion.
The bill restores NASA’s focus on manned space flights, a serious change from the Obama-era focus on robotics.
“Today, we are taking the initial steps toward a bold and bright new future of American space flight,” said Trump at the signing ceremony on Tuesday, adding that the NASA Transition Authorization Act will create job opportunities in the space industry.
The new bill orders NASA to submit a “human exploration roadmap [to] expand human presence beyond low Earth orbit to the surface of Mars and beyond” and expands NASA’s mission statement by including “the search for life’s origins, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.”
It’s been over six years since Congress has passed a NASA authorization bill, and the agency hasn’t had its own spacecraft since June 2011.
The legislation, which enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, marks yet another campaign promise with which Trump has followed through.
“Under a Trump Administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars,” he said at a rally in October.
The NASA Transition Authorization Act has a serious focus on reaching Mars, and instructs the agency to find ways to “extend human presence, including potential human habitation on another celestial body and a thriving space economy in the 21st century.”
The bill also sets goals for partnerships in the private sector, and Trump hopes to see joint operations take place at NASA launch facilities. “The commercial and the private sector are going to be using these facilities and I hope they are going to be paying us a lot of money,” said Trump.
Elon Musk, CEO and founder of the private spaceflight company SpaceX, complains the bill won’t put us closer to reaching Mars.
“This bill changes almost nothing about what NASA is doing. Existing programs stay in place and there is no added funding for Mars,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
SpaceX is currently working with NASA under a $1.6 billion contract. They have already flown 10 cargo missions to the international space station, but Musk wants more. His ultimate goal for SpaceX is to enable commercial space travel to Mars and to eventually colonize the Red Planet.
Editor’s note: We are a political site, but sometimes you have to look beyond politics and see what is important to mankind. This is important.