Experts suspect that President-elect Donald Trump’s space program will likely be focused on exploration with robotic probes and sending humans to Mars, using money diverted from global warming science programs.
“NASA should be focused primarily on deep-space activities rather than Earth-centric work that is better handled by other agencies,” Robert S. Walker and Peter Navarro, both senior advisers to the Trump campaign, wrote in an opinion piece published in SpaceNews. “Human exploration of our entire solar system by the end of this century should be NASA’s focus and goal.”
Industry analysts suspect that Trump will likely modestly increase NASA’s overall budget while slashing many programs supported by President Barack Obama. Additional money for Mars exploration could potentially be diverted from NASA’s troubled Asteroid Redirect Mission, which was also heavily supported by Obama.
“A number of prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill think that NASA should not be involved to the degree that it is in Earth science,” Jeff Foust, a senior writer at the trade publication SpaceNews, told Space.com. “I would certainly expect to see some sort of development in terms of potential reduction to NASA’s Earth science program.”
Trump could slash the more than $2 billion NASA spends on its Earth Science Mission Directorate, which covers global warming science like improved climate modeling and weather prediction. NASA’s other functions, such as astrophysics and space technology, are currently only getting a mere $781.5 and $826.7 million, respectively.
Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, pledged on Twitter in late October to head a reinstated National Space Council, which would dictate much of U.S. space policy and coordinate civil and military space agencies. The Council is traditionally headed by the sitting vice president. Obama promised to re-establish the organization before taking office, but never actually did it.
Experts have previously blamed the agency’s problems on Obama focusing NASA on global warming. Obama has repeatedly tried to slash space exploration funding and redirect it to Earth science programs, which include climate modeling initiatives designed to measure global warming. Obama increased NASA’s budget for environmental programs by 63 percent at the expense of its exploration budget.
Obama twice stymied the Constellation program, designed to take humans back to the moon, and eventually to Mars, by leaking information to the press and threatening to veto the projects. NASA astronauts now rely on the Russians to reach space, and NASA has been forced by the Obama administration to delay the Mars mission until 2030.
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