As a life-long Democrat, recently flipped to Republican who often held multiple positions on issue after issue, Donald Trump has been notoriously hard to pin down when it comes to policy plans.
However, we should be able to glean some details about the president-elect’s space policy from a recent op-ed in Space News by Robert S. Walker, a probable member of Trump’s NASA transition team, and Peter Navarro, a public policy expert.
“NASA should be focused primarily on deep space activities rather than Earth-centric work that is better handled by other agencies,” the co-authors wrote. “Human exploration of our entire Solar System by the end of this century should be NASA’s focus and goal.”
Walker has argued that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) should take over the bulk of NASA’s Earth and climate research. This would allow the space agency to shift more focus outward, according to Walker.
“NOAA is probably a more appropriate place for that to be done,” he recently told The Verge.
Good for space, questionable for Earth
This approach could totally alter NASA’s Earth Science division, which has seen a fairly steady boost in financing under the Obama administration. NASA obtained $1.9 billion this fiscal year for the division, an increase of around $400,000 since Obama’s first year in office.
However, there aren’t any Trump plans to supply funding to NOAA during this changeover. Within the last few years, NASA has launched a number of crucial Earth-observing satellites, like the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCVR) and the Jason satellites, which have collected valuable information on Earth’s climate, space weather and sea level shifts.
The op-ed does have some alignment with Obama’s NASA policy. Perhaps the most significant focus of NASA during the Obama administration has been public-private relationships, campaigns involving NASA has partnering with commercial businesses to satisfy its exploration needs. The biggest of these joint ventures have been the Commercial Crew and Cargo Programs, by which private space travel companies like SpaceX are given the job of moving people and cargo to and from the International Space Station.
Walker and Navarro said strong public-private partnerships will continue, and that they will aim to turn the ISS into a ‘quasi-public facility’, which NASA has indicated interest in doing for quite a while.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr
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