London/Washington: In what could herald a new era for NASA, US President-elect Donald Trump is set to cut the US space agency’s budget for climate change and let it focus on sending humans on deep space exploration missions like Mars, including another ‘giant leap’ to the Moon.
According to the Telegraph, Trump wants the agency to realign its goals for deep space missions rather than earth science research.
“NASA has been reduced to a logistics agency concentrating on space station resupply and politically correct environmental monitoring. We would start by having a stretch goal of exploring the entire solar system by the end of the century,” Bob Walker, who has advised Trump on space policy.
NASA’s Earth Science Division received $1.92 billion in funding this year, up nearly 30 per cent from the previous year.
“Its funding has gone up 50 per cent under President Obama who proposed cutting support for deep space exploration by $840 million next year,” the report added.
According to Space.com, NASA is committed to its current level of support for the space station through 2024. After that, funds could be put toward the agency’s efforts to send humans to more distant space locations.
Republicans have long complained that the agency that sent men to the moon should not be spending billions of dollars on “predicting the weather”.
“In order to free up NASA to focus on deep space exploration, Trump’s space policy is expected to include handing over operations in low-Earth orbit, including that of the International Space Station (ISS), to private sector companies,” the report added.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already sending cargo resupply missions to the ISS and has plans to send astronauts in the future.
NASA is already working to get humans to the surface of the Red Planet by the first half of the 2030s, as instructed by President Barack Obama. But things may change under President-elect Trump.
President-elect Trump can nominate an administrator and deputy administrator for NASA which has to be confirmed by the Senate.
The US space agency is already developing a capsule called Orion and a huge rocket known as the Space Launch System (SLS) to get astronauts to distant destinations such as Mars.
First Published | 21 November 2016 2:51 PM