Ever since Trump’s inauguration this year, it’s become a trend for the President of the United States and his administration to make dreadful and controversial decisions: rolling back birth control, phasing out DACA, firing James Comey — it’s a long list! However, his most recent mistake is not unique to him. It has been repeated by newly elected presidents time after time — Space exploration.
“We will go to the moon, and go beyond.”
To the Moon!
During the meeting of the National Space Council, Vice President Mike Pence announced that NASA will be sending humans to the Moon again. The intention is to establish a permanent human presence on Earth’s natural satellite, which will serve as a stepping stone towards Mars. This new plan fundamentally changes the direction NASA was headed during Obama’s presidency. Obama’s plan was oriented towards sending humans to Mars, instead of the Moon where we have already been. However, before Obama took office, Bush had a different vision from Obama that was very much like Trump’s — getting humans to the Moon again through the Constellations program.
A Frequently Changing Space Program
Do you notice a pattern here? Every eight years or so, a new president is elected, and a series of changes follow. Part of these changes involves taking apart the predecessor’s space plan and putting together an entirely new one. While having a vision for the future is a necessity, this habit of inconsistency means that NASA has only eight years to finish a program before it is canceled or replaced by a new one. Redirecting the funds and changing the objective so often results in a waste of resources and apparent stagnation. Without a definite end in sight, the furthest place humans will be going to is the International Space Station.
Obama’s ambitions regarding Mars weren’t empty. A mission like that, however, requires considerable dedication and more than a modest period of eight years. The same goes for Trump’s plan to use the Moon as a ladder towards Mars. By changing the plan, a lot of the technology aimed for Mars will now be on standby, while more money will flow into Moon investments.
Another fact that we have learned from the National Space Council meeting is that this new plan will primarily rely on private companies. Space technology is becoming more accessible, and private corporations are bolder in the space sector. SpaceX is an obvious choice, as well as Blue Origin. The meeting was also attended by representatives from Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and national space agencies.
Going to the Moon may not be as exciting as going to the Mars, but it’s better than staying in low orbit. Hopefully, we will get there before a change of office. As one of the USA’s shining gems, it’s a shame that NASA cannot function independently from the political parties and their agendas. If both parties just agreed on a mutual objective, then we would have already achieved most of our current goals, maybe even Mars.