US President Donald Trump signed a bill granting $19.5 billion to NASA in funding for the current fiscal year and targets space exploration to send humans to Mars in the next decade. The target seems to be by 2030. Trump said he was “delighted” to sign the law from the Oval Office, where he was accompanied by several of the law’s promoters, Vice President Mike Pence and officials of NASA, the U.S. Space Agency.
This law “reaffirms our national commitment to the central mission of NASA,” Trump said, adding that it is a matter of ensuring the maintenance of the agency’s most important programs and the United States remaining a “total leader” of space exploration.
The President cited, in particular, the importance of the “transition” of exploration activities to the private sector. In 2011, NASA ended flights from its space shuttles and has since relied on Russia to take its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
Several private companies, including Boeing and SpaceX, are currently working to carry out manned missions to transfer U.S. astronauts to the ISS without relying on third countries. On the other hand, Trump remarked that the law enacted today “supports” NASA’s deep space exploration activities.
Specifically, the law sets the long-term goal of sending humans “near or to the surface of Mars” by the 2030s. Last October, then-US President Barack Obama said that the country was on the “right track” with the cooperation of government and private innovators to achieve the goal of sending humans to Mars for the date indicated.
According to Trump, this new law is also to support jobs for engineers and scientists, among others, as well as to provide vigilance and medical treatment to “heroic astronauts” for health conditions derived from their service. After promulgating the law, Trump received an astronaut jacket as a gift from the NASA authorities.
Despite these huge ambitions, there doesn’t seem to be enough reason for the President to invest much in space exploration. U.S. President Donald Trump presented a first draft budget for 2018. In that document, Trump cut the budget for NASA to a historic extent, including sectors such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services and NASA.
Apparently, it is more relevant to increase the budget for military spending and national security, than for scientific, biological and environmental advances for the business tycoon. Regarding NASA, Trump wants the agency to focus more on space exploration rather than on environmental issues or collaboration with private institutions.
At the moment the budgetary cut has not been put into practice, but in case it were approved, the Environmental Protection Agency would be the most affected. Usually, one usually relates to NASA when it comes to studying space, but one more often than not forgets that the agency has a tremendous role to play on Earth, including climate change, something Mr. Trump doesn’t believe in.
Trump commented, “NASA will investigate approaches to reduce the costs of exploration missions to allow for a more expansive exploration program.”
The draft document has yet to be approved by Congress, but one must remember that the majority of the members belong to the Republican Party, so it could very well be that the budget-cut materializes from October 1 of the year 2017, date in which officially initiates the fiscal year in the United States.
However, the document does not mention anything about NASA’s plans to reach Mars or its manned mission to the Moon, although it will reduce expenses for funding in recruitment budget by NASA. That is to say, for young people who dream of traveling to space, there would not be many opportunities to become part of the agency. The department would be closed and with it the scholarship opportunities to young scientists.
Without opportunities for young scientists, there will be a serious shortfall in the development of American experts. The 2018 budget would not provide any help so NASA can continue to grow. Among the missions that would not be carried out under the budget fall imposed by Donald Trump, the landing of one of NASA’s space probes on one of Jupiter’s moon would also be hampered. Perhaps one of the greatest shortfalls of this move would impact DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory), a research facility which controls a satellite taking Earth’s photographs since 2015 and is responsible for studying the planet’s climate.
[Featured Image by Bill Ingalls/NASA/Getty Images]