By Joel Achenbach
The Trump people are taking over NASA, and it’s hard to predict how this will play out for the agency’s human spaceflight program. That’s in part because the usual rules of partisanship and ideology don’t apply in outer space. Above the stratosphere, there’s no left and right. (If anything, things are somewhat reversed, because a lot of Republicans support Big Government human spaceflight projects, as we’ll discuss in a moment.) Moreover, the president-elect hasn’t said much about space, and space wasn’t an issue in his campaign, either.
To the extent that Donald Trump has signaled any intentions, it’s in the makeup of the “landing team” now at NASA to plan the transition. The team has several people who have shown interest in going back to the moon. So, as we’ve reported, the moon could be very much back in play.
In these waning days of the Obama administration, NASA continues to brand its programs as part of a “Journey to Mars.” The label is, to some degree, public relations pure and simple. In the near term, NASA’s plan is to send astronauts around the moon in a series of missions in the 2020s. Why? Because there’s nowhere else to go at the moment given current funding and hardware. Trump’s people could say, hold on, let’s actually land on the moon. That would require new hardware or international partners and a lot of money. Some moon advocates say there are resources there, such as ice, that could be turned into fuel for a Mars mission.
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