The five biggest effects Trump has had on the U.S. space program


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1 From Mars to the moon

On December 11, 2017, Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, which officially called on NASA to begin work on a human discovery program that would return astronauts to the surface of the moon and establish the basis for a sustained presence (i.e., a lunar colony)). This was a pivot from President Obama’s instructions for NASA to build a program that will take man to Mars in the 2030s and establish a sustained presence. there. The plan was for lunar missions to use the architectures developed for Mars, such as the next-generation Space Launch System and the Orion deep space equipment capsule.

Earlier last year, the administration accelerated the timetable for a return to 2024. “The common thread between many policy options, transitions and industry officials said, is a focus on projects capable of attract widespread electoral support that can realistically be achieved during Mr. Trump’s current four-year presidential term. ” the Wall Street Journal reported in 2017. Even if a landing in 2024 happens in a second term, if Trump wins re-election, it would be a definite success of his presidency. Most experts agree, however, that NASA is increasingly unlikely to meet this term.

But there are also arguments as to why the moon makes sense. As current NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine likes to say, the moon is a “test ground”For deep space missions to places like Mars. It’s easier to go, offers a low-gravity environment to test life support systems and other technologies necessary for a long-term life outside the world, and could be a site of fuel production for future spacecraft.

During Obama’s presidency, many people in the space community thought that going directly to Mars “was such a big problem, and the money was so inadequate for it, that it became almost worse than nothing,” says Casey Dreier, an expert of space policy with the Planetary Society. “They said they were going to Mars but they contributed almost nothing to that effort.”

As Obama’s term approached, “it became very clear that the moon was going to be the target,” says James Vedda, a political analyst at Aerospace Corporation. “Trump has made it official.”

This will not change, even if there is a new administration in the White House in January. The Democratic platform released this year says the party is on board with going to the moon, although the unreasonable deadline for 2024 will likely be pushed back.

2 Marketing of the low Earth orbit

This was another trend continued by past administrations. The Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program (which hired private companies to manage refueling missions in the ISS) had its beginnings under George W. Bush and matured under Obama. The success of this program helped reinforce support for the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) under Obama (when Joe Biden was vice president), which aimed to replace the space shuttle with commercial vehicles developed by SpaceX and Boeing to send astronauts at the space station. After numerous delays (some of which have put NASA in an ingenious position of already extending its confidence in Russia for access to the ISS), the CCP finally achieved its goals in May, when the Crew vehicle SpaceX Dragon took astronauts to the ISS.

Trump can’t take credit for CRS or CCP, but he can take credit for applying his plan to the space program at all (although the success of the CCP is yet to be determined). Trump embraced the commercialization of the low Earth orbit. “Seeing.” [CRS and CCP] pay now with a kind of Midas touch, we’ve seen NASA now take it and put it almost wherever it can, ”says Dreier. NASA wants buy moon rocks from private companies, buy the science images of the Earth from commercial satellites, opens the ISS to private visitors, and bring private companies to the moon.

In Dreier’s view, the big question is whether the success of sending people to the space station through commercial partners can be replicated elsewhere, for things that have not been proven before. A commercial company has never landed on the moon – yet in less than four years commercially built lander it is planned to do exactly that, with human astronauts. The Trump administration has put the business on turbo-drive, giving it a flow of new business and opportunities for the business sector. But given how volatile spaceflight is, a new administration might prefer to slow down that approach to strengthen security testing.

3 Space Force

The rise of China and the deterioration of relations with Russia, the only other two space powers that could rival the United States, have been a concern for U.S. officials on both sides of the political spectrum. The potential for conflicts in orbit it has grown over time.

A great idea from the Trump administration? Space Force. It sounds like something out of a 1950s comic, but it was essentially an engaging way to ensure that enough attention and resources would be devoted to scanning Earth’s orbit for threats and fortifying national assets against interference. As space activity grows, that organization grows as well – and the Air Force could concentrate on things on earth.

Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea. A major argument against the Space Force is that it does nothing that the Air Force has not even dealt with. It reorganizes operations under one roof, but also adds new levels of hierarchy and bureaucracy. As Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon argued, the creation of a small US Space Command to monitor space operations through the army made sense; an inflated Space Force does not.

Both Democrats and Republicans have been thinking about creating such an organization for quite some time, Vedda says. He thinks Trump’s real impact was to accelerate the chronology of a decade and make the enterprise permanent. There isn’t really a way to disband the Space Force, even if a new administration wanted it (and Biden’s campaign didn’t make any suggestions that it would try). More frequent anti-satellite tests from Russiamade it clear that conflicts in space can and do occur they are likely to emerge in the future. The Space Force may seem silly, but it’s probably here to stay.

4 Earth Sciences

It’s not even been a secret that Trump has he spent his entire term trying to disrupt NASA’s work to study climate change. The administration tried to shake up NASA Coal Monitoring System and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory mission 3. It he always wants to to cancel the PACE ocean observation mission and the CLARREO climate study mission. NOAA has he suffered diminished in funding for its environmental satellite programs.

Trump has not eliminated the observation of Earth sciences that has been made from space, but he has downplayed its impact by limiting how the data can be used. At a time when climate change is exacerbating and we need to increase these programs, the administration has chosen instead to abandon the Paris agreements and deregulate greenhouse gas emissions.

5 National Space Council

Finally, a success for Trump that has rather slipped under the radar: the resurrection of the National Space Council, a body (disappeared since 1993) that brings together officials from many parts of the government (such as national security, the energy, trade, and transportation) to discuss the U.S. space program. The space embraces many different spaces, but Vedda argues that people tend to specialize in one, which makes it harder to think about considerations outside of their own field. “Problems can fall very easily between cracks,” he says. “The National Space Council is making sure none of these things fall through the cracks.”

The Trump administration’s decision to revive the council was unusual, aided by the fact that Vice President Mike Pence (who chairs the council) has taken a keen interest in the space. He has been an amazing force in shaping the direction of U.S. space policy, gathering discussions on everything from how the military and NASA could collaborate to satellite regulation and communications standards to future technological and energy experiments. It’s unclear if Biden will keep the advice. Space officers from across the country recently met to “war gameA hypothetical advice that operates under Biden, but if his running mate, Kamala Harris, shows no interest, he could very well be on his way out once again.


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