The U.S. Senate passed legislation recently cutting funding for NASA’s global warming research.
The House is expected to pass the bill, and President Trump will likely sign it. Supporters say it “re-balances” NASA’s budget back toward space exploration and away from global warming and earth science research. Republicans plan to end the more than $2 billion NASA spends on its Earth Science Mission Directorate.
“By rebalancing, I’d like for more funds to go into space exploration; we’re not going to zero out earth sciences,” Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, told E&E News. “I’d like for us to remember what our priorities are, and there are another dozen agencies that study earth science and climate change, and they can continue to do that.”
NASA’s spending on earth and global warming science 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.
“We only have one agency that engages in space exploration, and they need every dollar they can muster for space exploration,” Smith continued.
Trump 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.”
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 Bill Nye “the science guy,” notorious global warming critic and 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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