Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Trump Space Policy To Aim For Mars And Beyond
Past administrations tended to use space exploration catchphrases to give them a vision statement, but then failed to follow through on their promises. Thus, what can we expect from a Trump Administration — in terms of colonizing the Moon; sending humans to Mars; and developing commercial interests in space?
“The specifics of missions will be determined within the overall goal of human exploration of the solar system, but clearly, the long–term, overall goal of Trump space policy anticipates human exploration far beyond low-Earth orbit and even beyond Mars,” former Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Robert Walker and a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, told me.
Will space policy be a real part of the President-elect’s first term?
“President-elect Trump made space policy a major part of his final campaign message and Vice President-elect Pence has been very enthusiastic about the role he would assume as head of the new National Space Council,” said Walker, a former Chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology committee. “The council would help keep space issues front and center during the Trump Administration.”
What will be among Trump’s first space policy goals? Walker says:
— Setting the goal and beginning technological implementation of human exploration of our solar system by the end of this century.
— Re-direction of NASA budgets toward deep space science.
— Creation of an aggressive program for development of hypersonic technology.
— Begin negotiations to assure the viability of the International Space Station (ISS) beyond 2028.
Will a Trump Administration see space as a national security priority?
“Trump space policy puts a priority on reducing the vulnerability of our military space assets through use of multi-satellite constellations and new technology for servicing and refueling those constellations,” said Walker. Trump military space policy, he says, is predicated on the belief that our military and intelligence space assets are a vital part of meeting all of our defense requirements.
Walker recently co-authored a Space News op/ed with University of California-Irvine business professor Peter Navarro, also a Trump space policy advisor. They wrote that “both China and Russia continue to move briskly forward with military-focused initiatives.” China and Russia’s aim, they write, is to “develop weapons explicitly designed, as the Pentagon has noted, to deny, degrade, deceive, disrupt, or destroy America’s eyes and ears in space.”
As for civilian space efforts?
Walker and Navarro argue that NASA should be focused primarily on deep space activities rather than Earth-centric work that is better handled by other agencies. Thus, they write, “Human exploration of our entire solar system by the end of this century should be NASA’s focus and goal.”
Getting humans to Mars by 2035 will require an unprecedented public/private partnership over the next two decades or more. Thus, if forced to accept outdated operational structures, contracting procedures, and bureaucracies created in the last century, “NASA cannot be expected to do this kind of 21st century Apollo-like mission,” they write.
Trump space policy, says Walker, will advocate all manner of public-private partnerships and will make sure that competing launch vehicle designs do not unnecessarily overlap. As Walker and Navarro write: “A Trump administration will insist that space products developed for one sector, but applicable to another, be fully shared.”
As Walker and Navarro note, current Trump space doctrine aimed at the better coordination of the country’s overall space initiatives — both to avoid redundancy and to seek private sector solutions at every opportunity.