President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are gearing up for a fight with Democrats over NASA’s global warming budget.
Trump has tapped former Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Walker as a senior adviser to his NASA transition team — a man who thinks NASA should do less “politically correct environmental monitoring” and more space exploration.
“NASA should be focused primarily on deep-space activities rather than Earth-centric work that is better handled by other agencies,” Walker and Peter Navarro, another senior adviser to the Trump campaign, wrote in an October opinion piece. “Human exploration of our entire solar system by the end of this century should be NASA’s focus and goal.”
Spending on earth sciences has increased by 63 percent over the last eight years, making it the largest and fastest growing budget of any NASA science program. The agency now spends more on environmental research than many of its other science functions, including astrophysics and space technology. Those programs only get $781.5 million and $826.7 million, respectively.
“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.”
Climate scientists are already pushing back against the Trump administration.
Dr. Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the agency’s top climate scientist, threatened to resign if Trump stopped funding the agency’s global warming programs.
Republicans aren’t the only ones looking to cut environmental science spending.
Experts blame President Obama for delaying plans to send astronauts to Mars until 2030. As early as 2007, then-Sen. Obama called for delaying the Constellation program to replace NASA’s Space Shuttles for five years in order to pay for his education program.
“A crewed Mars mission remains two decades away,” Alexandra Witze, a columnist at the science magazine Nature, wrote in Nature News. “Its schedule is constrained by the funding available to develop the necessary hardware — a new heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule to sustain astronauts in deep space.”
“That is almost exactly the situation NASA was in eight years ago, bar one detail: Obama ditched the Moon as a first stop for astronauts on their way to Mars,” Witze wrote.
Even global warming alarmist Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” who’s also the CEO of the Planetary Society, has criticized Obama’s attempts to cut NASA’s space exploration and planetary science programs in favor of global warming. NASA’s planetary science program has previously held car washes and bake sales to gain political support to maintain funding.
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