Friday, 21 June 2024

Trump’s space review

The world woke up today with news that Donald Trump will be the next American president. Although it will be too early to tell exactly what this means for the US space industry, science has played only a small part in this year’s dramatic, hard-fought campaign and many researchers have already expressed fear and disbelief at Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

“Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had,” said Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society in Washington DC. “The consequences are going to be very, very severe.”

A Trump presidency carries many unknowns when it comes not only to space policy but to other scientific issues. For example, Trump has already openly questioned the science underlying climate change – at one point suggesting that it was a Chinese hoax – and pledged to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

However, in his official campaign statements, Trump has largely struck a pro-commercialism viewpoint toward civil spaceflight. “Public-private partnerships should be the foundation of our space efforts,” according to Bob Walker and Peter Navarro, senior policy advisers to Trump. “Such partnerships offer not only the benefit of reduced costs, but the benefit of partners capable of thinking outside of bureaucratic structures and regulations.”

Other sources agree that it seems likely that the Trump administration will take a hard look at costly NASA programmes, such as the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, which could be replaced by cheaper, private alternatives.

During the campaign Trump admitted in response to one question that NASA wouldn’t be his focus because there were bigger issues to fix.

Concerning crewed trips to an asteroid and then Mars, Trump has said such ventures will be low on the list of things that need to get done compared, for example, to infrastructure and other problems.

He has indicated that, after taking office, he would commission a comprehensive review of US plans for space, and would work with Congress to set both “priorities and mission”.

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