President Trump doubles down on NASA’s original mission of space exploration and departs from President Obama’s use of the agency for investigating global warming.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has had some identity issues over the past 8 years. As an independent agency of the executive branch, each new President has come in with his own vision and direction for NASA. With President Trump’s term getting further underway, how will NASA look moving forward?
To understand where NASA is going in 2017 and beyond, we must first understand where it has been. When created, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958, NASA’S mission was the to expand space science. Which is, in short, the study of space exploration and understanding why things are the way they are in space. Soon, the Apollo program was used to compete with the Soviet Union to see who could put a man first in space and then secondly on the moon.
After the space race ended, the focus returned to the study of space, satellites and space stations. This culminated in the space shuttle program. But after 30 years and with over 300 astronauts going into space, the shuttle program came to an end under President Obama, and NASA was given a completely new identity.
President Obama turned a space agency into an organization focused mostly on earth. To be more accurate: the study of Global Warming . President Obama grounded NASA and left space exploration to the Chinese and the Russians. And for the next handful of years, Americans began to wonder if the nation would ever explore deep space again or send anyone to the moon, or further.
In 2016, candidate Trump promised to rebuild the NASA program and re-focus the agency on space exploration. However, his emphasis remained on rebuilding infrastructure first. In his 2018 budget proposal, President Trump budgeted about .8% less in funding for NASA.
What President Trump did do, however, was redirect funding from NASA’s Earth Science division, studying Global Warming, towards the Planetary Science division. The redirection of funds provided for the 2020 Mars Rover and the Europa Clipper mission that will explore Jupiter’s icy moon.
NASA’s Office of Education was also eliminated under Trump’s 2018 budget, saving $110 million. NASA’s acting chief Robert Lightfoot stated, “while this budget no longer funds a formal Office of Education, NASA will continue to inspire the next generation through our missions and channel education efforts in a more focused way through the robust portfolio of our Science Mission Directorate.”
The budget also includes $624 million in funding for technology-research programs that include supersonic transportation and cybersecurity. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) stated: “[This funding] paves the way for eventual over-land commercial supersonic flights and safer, more efficient air travel with a strong program of aeronautics research.”
President Trump’s plan for NASA also does what he has promised across the board in Washington: lower costs. His is restructuring a NASA Satellite-refueling-Demonstration mission that is eliminating $88 million.
President Trump’s plans to work alongside both other nations and the private industry in growing space exploration. The OMB stated: “[The budget] increases cooperation with industry through the use of public-private partnerships, focuses the nation’s efforts on deep space exploration rather than Earth-centric research, and develops technologies that would help achieve U.S. space goals and benefit the economy.”
The focus of the new NASA is on looking outward into deep space. NASA can be NASA again. In fact, Mr. Lightfoot even suggested that the United States may be on track to put the first human on Mars by 2033.