President-elect Donald Trump, who said during his election campaign that climate change was probably a ‘Chinese hoax’, is set to have NASA’s climate change budget slashed. He believes that the US space agency should focus on deep space missions, such as sending humans back onto the Moon, visiting Mars, and having manned spacecraft traveling to the edge of the Solar System by the year 2100.
Gone are NASA’s days of ‘Earth-centric climate change spending’. Now, NASA is entering a new age of major exploration into deep space.
According to Bob Walker, who is on the Board of Directors of Space Adventures, chairman of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee of the US Department of Energy, and was appointed space policy adviser of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, NASA has been reduced to “a logistics agency concentrating on space station resupply and politically correct environmental monitoring.”
Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump said that climate change was a politically-correct hoax created by the Chinese. (Image: Trump’s twitter account)
From climate change to the edge of the Solar System
In an interview with The Telegraph, Mr. Walker said:
“We would start by having a stretch goal of exploring the entire Solar System by the end of the century. You stretch your technology experts and create technologies that wouldn’t otherwise be needed. I think aspirational goals are a good thing. Fifty years ago it was the ability to go to the moon.”
NASA has been progressively involved in climate change research ever since President Obama took office in 2008. Its Earth Science Division received $1.92 billion in funding in 2016, which was almost 30% more than in 2015.
Since 2008, its funding has increased by over fifty percent. Mr. Obama is less keen on deep space exploration. He proposed cutting that side of NASA’s activity by $840 million for 2017.
— Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) January 2, 2014
On the day Mr. Trump won the presidential election, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, defended the US space agency’s Earth science work.
Dr. Zurbuchen said:
“NASA’s work on Earth science is making a difference in people’s lives all around the world every day. Earth science helps save lives.”
Republican lawmakers have long complained that NASA has lost the plot, drifting from being at the cutting edge of space exploration to becoming the nation’s ‘weatherman’.
Revive NASA’s Moon program?
Under President George W. Bush, there were plans in the Constellation program to have humans walking on the Moon again by the middle of the 2020s. However, President Obama cancelled it.
Mr. Trump may well decide to revive Constellation. The equipment is still there – scientists and engineers could pretty well carry on from where they left off.
Mr. Trump’s advisers see a Lunar base as a stepping stone to having humans walking on Mars.
According to Trump, Obama reduced NASA from a pioneering deep-space-exploring center of excellence into a shabby weather forecaster. (Image: Donald Trump Twitter account)
Mr. Gingrich, a staunch Trump ally who is probably destined for a major cabinet position, is also a space fanatic and strongly favors a Moon mission. During his 2012 presidential bid, his chairman was Mr. Walker.
In 2012, Mr. Gingrich suggested establishing a human colony on the Moon within eight years of his becoming president (he did not become president).
Trump would rather see NASA placing humans on the Moon again, perhaps establishing a colony there as a stepping stone to a Mars mission, than having the space agency spending money on climate change. (Image: adapted from 21stcentech.com)
How important is climate change?
If Mr. Trump pulls his country out of the Paris agreement, it will be the only advanced economy in the world to be in denial about global warming. If he pushes fossil fuel usage and cuts back on alternative fuel research and development, and climate change really is upon us, the consequences for the planet could be dire.
Every month, skeptical scientists are crossing the line, finally admitting to the reality of climate change. Over the past five years, not one scientist anywhere in the world has crossed the line in the opposite direction – from believer to denier.
Video – Mars mission decades away
The race to place humans on Mars may go on, but it won’t happen for decades, say scientists.