What President Trump Means for NASA

What President Trump Means for NASA

What NASA programs will President-elect Donald Trump support, which will he potentially work to eliminate, and whom will he nominate for NASA's top leadership position? Two space policy reporters offered their insight on these questions. Brian Berger is editor in chief at SpaceNews, a trade publication for the spaceflight industry, and Jeff Foust is a senior writer there. In a webinar on Wednesday (Nov. 9), Berger and Foust discussed how the new presidential administration might affect NASA and other U.S. space-related activities. "There's going to be a period of uncertainty as the new administration figures out what their priorities are in space and what NASA programs they might want to continue, which ones they might actually want to accelerate and which ones they might want to get rid of," Foust said. Mars or the moon Foust published an article yesterday (Nov. 9) outlining the information that Trump's campaign has provided about the president-elect's space plan. Most of that information comes via Robert Walker — former chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and former chairman of the Commission on the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry — who was brought in to serve as the campaign's space policy advisor. In Foust's article, Walker described the campaign's space plan with four words: visionary, disruptive, coordinating and resilient. Walker then outlined nine key goals of the plan. Some of those goals are "fairly broad," Foust said yesterday, including the declaration that Trump's administration will make a "commitment to global space leadership" for the United States. It remains to be seen what specific actions the Trump administration will take to accomplish the goals that Walker laid out. Prior to the election, President-elect Trump and his campaign representatives made multiple statements voicing support for partnerships with private companies, including the intention to hand over operations in low Earth-orbit (which would include the operation of the International Space Station) to private industry. Such partnerships are already up and running; 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 is committed to its current level of support for the space station through 2024, and agency officials as well as leaders in the spaceflight industry have also voiced support for a plan that would relieve NASA of its financial responsibility to the station after 2024. Those funds could then be put toward the agency's efforts to send humans to more distant space locations. It seems likely that the Trump administration will put particular emphasis on human space exploration, Berger and Foust agreed. One of the most ambitious goals set out by Walker calls for "human exploration of the solar system by the end of the century." Foust said Walker called this a "stretch goal" intended to "help drive some of the technology that will be needed for human exploration of Mars." NASA is already working to get humans to the surface of the Red Planet by the first half of the 2030s, as instructed by President Barack Obama. But things may change under President-elect Trump. Read More: Space.com
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