President-elect Donald Trump’s administration should double NASA’s budget in the coming years and make plans for a human return to the moon and Mars, according to billionaire space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow.
Bigelow called Trump’s election an “early Christmas present for the country and for NASA” and called for the new president to pour money into the space program. The billionaire’s company, Bigelow Aerospace has even publically requested more money for NASA on Twitter.
“I propose that NASA should have, beginning in fiscal year 2019, an annual budget equal to at least one percent of total yearly federal spending,” Bigelow said, according to Space.com. The Obama administration, in its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal, requested $19 billion for NASA, less than half a percent of the overall request.
Bigelow said that the new economic growth and technologies generated by the space program would more than offset the costs of increased spending. The billionaire wants most of the new money to be spent on returning to the moon and preparing to visit Mars, and pledged that doing so would create new oppertunites for businesses on Earth.
Bigelow Aerospace, builds expandable space habitats. These are a huge deal for space exploration because they take up less room on a rocket, but provide greater volume for living and working in space once expanded. Inflatable habitats could potentially allow large rockets to easily deliver an entire space station in one launch, which would greatly simplify the process of living and working in space.
Industry analysts suspect that Trump will likely modestly increase NASA’s overall budget while slashing many programs supported by President Barack Obama, so the money can be poured into the kind of space exploration Bigelow favors.
“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.”
NASA has already given Bigelow’s company a contract worth $17.8 million to produce inflatable habitats. The company plans to produce habitats that are three times the size of any individual International Space Station (ISS) module.
NASA attached its first Bigelow inflatable habitat to the ISS in April. Astronauts entered the habitat about a week after expansion and will return to the module for a few hours several times a year to retrieve sensor data and assess conditions during its two-year test mission.
The habitat was expanded to nearly five times its compressed size of 7 feet in diameter by 8 feet in length to roughly 10 feet in diameter and 13 feet in length, according to a NASA press statement. It is being closely monitored during its time at the station to see how effectively inflatable habitats protect against solar radiation, space debris and the temperature extremes.
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