Sunday, January 1, 2017
With a newly elected president, and the possibility of a new NASA administrator, many space enthusiasts and especially those in the aerospace industry are reasonably wondering, what will the future hold?
In years past, I have spent Decembers on space calendar giveaways, top missions of the year, and various awards, then created a post in January to discuss space goals, agency changes, and what the new year might bring.
A few Twitter users have accused me of "zeroing in" on Trump in a way that I "never did with Obama," except that I meticulously documented Obama's campaign promises for many years -- as evidenced by my past posts where I literally listed EVERY SINGLE ONE of President Barack Obama's space-related policies.
I just as meticulously documented results, and was never shy about listing his promises and researching them exhaustively, nor did I ever fail to mention when promises were stalled, compromised upon, or downright broken.
While I may be asking these questions a bit earlier than before, it is because the administration itself has changed for the first time since I've begun writing about the nation's civil space policy. Any change in command at the highest level could well mean significant changes to many portions of the space agency, not the least of which is a new leader for the agency itself.
The short list includes GW Space Policy Institute Director Scott Pace, former astronaut Colonel Eileen Collins, and Oklahoma Representative Jim Bridenstine -- author of the Space Renaissance Act. Top priorities, as always, are listed as Moon, Mars, and Commercial Space. However, these tend to be the "sexy spotlights," when in fact NASA's $18+ billion is spread broadly among many major categories that contribute to successful industries both in space and across the globe.
Here are the major categories of the NASA budget. What will a Trump presidency mean to things like climate change research, Earth sciences, Green efforts, or even planetary science? We know many of these categories have been in the "pork" list for conservatives for many cycles. Will a budget for Mars glory mean gutting the long term plans for the habitability for our own planet?
We can likely count on many Senators in the 10 states with major NASA centers to fight for the jobs inside their borders, and the crucial work that fuels technology and spinoffs from space research; what we do not know is how well they will fare against blatantly partisan attempts to cater to myths that science is untrustworthy, or that science cares about elections, imaginary lines on maps, or whether Floridians just voted to imagine climate change does not exist when sea life is flooding into Miami parking garages.
For the moment, we only have sparse commentary from President-Elect Donald Trump, and none so far show that he has a grasp of the actual issues facing the space agency. So far most of the details have come from more knowledgeable policy advisers, and not Trump himself. Based on his own comments, comparing the promises of Trump to Obama is a stark contrast, indeed.
I won't try to predict what the future holds, I'll just hope the message from the first man in space holds true into the 21st century.
Posted by PillowNaut at 5:00 AM