Mars, Earth and the Sun illustration.

In Trump’s NASA Budget, Mars Wins And Earth Loses

With the exception of military spending, Trump’s federal budget outline for 2018 appears to be more about cuts and slashing funds than boosts and benefits.

But NASA seems to have been mostly spared. Although the president does plan to reduce NASA’s funding in 2018, the proposed number only goes down from $19.3 billion to $19.1 billion.

According to the Washington Post, the budget proposal does not clearly specify in which direction Trump wishes NASA to focus their energy. However, the largest funding has been slotted for the agency’s human exploration division. This includes $3.7 billion in funding for the Space Launch System (SLS) jumbo rockets and the Orion crew vehicle, two spacecraft NASA believes could one day bring humans to Mars.

An astronaut with red hair looking at rocks on what is supposed to be Mars.
NASA hopes for future human missions to Mars and Trump wants to fund them. [Image by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]

Trump’s budget outline also states that NASA should “investigate approaches for reducing the costs of exploration missions to enable a more expansive exploration program.”

Two additional missions included in the budget outline are the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa; NASA believes Europa’s subsurface ocean may have an earthlike chemical balance, which could support life. In a NASA study from May 2016, Kevin Hand, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said the following about Europa’s ocean.

“The oxidants from the ice are like the positive terminal of a battery, and the chemicals from the seafloor, called reductants, are like the negative terminal. Whether or not life and biological processes complete the circuit is part of what motivates our exploration of Europa.”

The budget outline also includes funding for the Mars 2020 Rover mission to further explore the Red Planet.

However, NASA’s program’s here on Earth did not fare so well. The president’s budget proposal cuts all funding to the NASA Education office, which offers internships and scholarships to aspiring scientists, encourages and supports women and minorities in STEM fields, and provides enrichment programs and other activities for children and youth.

Trump’s budget requires all Earth-related science projects and missions to be covered by $102 million, which is a mere five percent of NASA’s annual funding.

Nearly all missions in NASA’s Earth science division seek to examine, measure and understand climate change on the planet.

3D image of a rocket circling planet Earth.
Trump plans to fund rockets, but not climate change science. [Image by 3D Sculptor/AP Images]

When looking elsewhere in Trump’s budget outline, it’s not surprising so little funding has been allocated for the Earth and climate change-related projects carried out by NASA. Afterall, one of the biggest losers in the president’s budget is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In the budget outline, President Trump is apparently asking Congress to slash funding for the EPA by $2.6 billion, which is a cut of over 31 percent. This would bring funding for the EPA down to about $5.7 billion, compared to its current funding level of $8.2 billion. According to the New York Times, such cuts would bring funding for the EPA to an all-time low for the past 40 years, after adjusting for inflation.

The New York Times also mentions that Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, pressed for a funding cut to $7 billion when he was told the initial budget plans from the White House. In the end, Trump went beyond Pruitt’s suggestion by slashing funding even further.

In total, Trump wants to cut over 50 EPA programs, put a stop to renewable energy research programs run by the Energy Department, and cut all funding to former President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The president also plans to place many regional environmental programs on the chopping block, such as clean up programs for the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.

Although Trump’s budget proposal still has to make its way through Congress, so far the verdict seems clear. In terms of funding, NASA’s space program and Mars are the “winners,” while Earth and the Environmental Protection Agency are the “losers” in the Trump administration.

[Featured Image by Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock]