How Trump could really disrupt NASA and the space program

Jan 8, 2017

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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5 comments on “How Trump could really disrupt NASA and the space program

  • 1
    Robert Firth says:

    NASA is badly in need of some creative disruption. Their “Journey to Mars” is pure propaganda – a feasible project, “Mars Direct” has been sitting on the shelf for almost 30 years because NASA wants only projects that funnel money to big contractors, not projects that actually fly.

    Get rid of the administrators, put the scientists and engineers back in charge, contract all the heavy lift to the Russians, and focus on the smaller, better technology that NASA used to do so well.



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  • Get rid of the politicians and bureaucrats, dump their budget into a NASA-administered trust fund, and let the scientists and engineers run the show… starting with managing their own internal budget. Get rid of the political pork.

    Let SpaceX & other commercial space companies handle the lift and habitats… let NASA handle the science.



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  • @OP – 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.

    The problem is that that the media and politicians are promoting hyped “Buck-Rodgers” type missions which are publicity gimmicks, but have little value to science!
    (Science was an after-thought on the Apollo Moon landings!)

    Most of the valuable developments – such as establishing asteroid mining bases, or servicing satellites in orbit, have never been heard of by the public.

    Most of the public using the internet, mobile phones, weather forecasts, and SAT-NAVS, could not even name the satellites they are using, or the launch systems which put them in orbit!

    The public certainly have no idea about the scale of the profits generated by these industries!



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  • @OP 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.

    Arbitrary “authoritarian” (as distinct from “authoritative”) decisions, from science-deniers, who avoid and disparage expert advice, never bode well for complex technical projects!
    The laws of physics and mathematics, don’t give a damn about Trump’s ego or PR propaganda verbosity from air-heads!



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