Bill Nye published an open video letter Tuesday asking President Donald Trump to send U.S. astronauts to Mars.
The former children’s show host and CEO of the Planetary Society asked Trump to refocus NASA’s budget on going to Mars in roughly 15 years. Nye says Mars could be done with small redirections of current funding and only modest total increases to NASA’s budget.
“Number one, keep the planet Mars as the goal of human space exploration,” Nye said in the Youtube open letter. “Keep the planet Mars as the goal for human space exploration. We strongly recommend against starting over.”
Trump already vowed to “unlock the mysteries of space” in his inaugural address, lending credence to reports he discussed sending humans to Mars in a private meeting with billionaire Elon Musk. During a speech to the Joint Session of Congress in late February, Trump said “American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.” Vice President Mike Pence met with Apollo 11 astronaut and Mars mission advocate Buzz Aldrin late last week to talk about the future of the U.S. space program.
“Let’s maintain all of the existing programs, robotic missions, crew capsules and rocket programs already in development,” Nye said.”Let’s keep this momentum going and get humans to Mars in our lifetimes.”
Trump has already asked NASA to accelerate the first manned mission of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from 2021 to 2018. The rocket is currently scheduled to send U.S. astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, the schedule of which could also be accelerated.
Nye suggested that U.S. astronauts aim to orbit Mars by 2033 and land humans there roughly two years later. Nye claims that this plan is “technically feasible and affordable.”
Former President Barack Obama tried for years to eliminate the SLS, but Congress rescued the rocket. Obama took money from space exploration programs to fund Earth science programs. Trump could slash the more than $2 billion NASA spends on its Earth Science Mission Directorate, which covers global warming science, and divert that money towards space exploration
Nye did not mention Trump’s likely cuts to NASA’s global warming research programs in the video, but has previously criticized Obama’s attempts to cut NASA’s space exploration and planetary science programs in favor of climate research. NASA’s planetary science program has previously held car washes and bake sales to gain political support to maintain funding.
Experts have long suspected Trump’s space agenda will fund exploration with robotic probes and, later, sending humans to Mars with money diverted from NASA’s global warming science programs. Another billionaire space entrepreneur, Robert Bigelow, thinks Trump could double NASA’s budget.
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