What does Trump’s Presidency Mean for NASA?

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NASA has been left in the dark, or so it would seem since Trump’s inauguration as 45th President of the United States.

For NASA, the Earth Science division may be at risk of being defunded and turned over to other government agencies. NASA’s budget could also be adversely impacted as a result of Trump’s desire to cut taxes and implement sweeping cuts to government spending.

In either case, while the outlook may not be bleak for NASA, it’s a bit gloomy.

NASA’s Budget for 2017

Under a Continuing Resolution, current funding for all branches of government are extended until April 28th, 2017. As such, the Office of Management and Budget will limit expenditures for government programs to the lowest possible budget level proposed by the House, Senate, and White House for FY2017.

This is effectively a budget cut in its own right, one that will hamper NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, and Planetary Space programs. Earth Science funding, while increased when the FY2017 budget request was drawn up, may well see a major reduction or complete defunding under the Trump Administration.

Space Launch System and Orion

With private development of similar technologies by companies such as SpaceX, the SLS and Orion programs have been heavily criticized. In 2017, both divisions will see budget cuts that may further hamper NASA’s efforts in these two programs.

Commercial Crew Development

Started in 2010, this public private partnership was created to share the cost of restoring America’s ability to use its own rockets and launch from its own soil. While there are skeptics, this program is explicitly excluded from cuts in the FY2017 budget. This program has bipartisan support, with a hope that a market will emerge for the services this program is developing.

Planetary Science

While this division benefits from strong bipartisan support in Congress, that doesn’t mean it will see an increased budget. In fact, the FY2017 budget request plans to cut funding by $112 million, or 6.9%.

In light of the mostly successful missions to other planets in our solar system, the continuing pattern of cutting the Planetary Science division’s budget begs the question: Why? There is no clear or meaningful answer to be found at this time.

It seems that this division is meant to run on vision and dreams alone.

Earth Science Division

Under the Trump Administration, funding for this may be cut altogether, with NASA’s research and data being given to the North American Oceanic Administration (NOAA) or possibly the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Regardless of the details, one thing is certain: the earth science that thrived will be left to wither in the glare of the Trump Administration’s disregard for climate change and the science behind it.

Conclusion

Outside of the proposed budget cuts to Earth Science, little is known about where the Trump Administration stands with regard to NASA. Meanwhile, NASA continues to carry on, its path overshadowed by uncertainty in the first few weeks of Trump as President.