With the recent election of Republican candidate Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States, how is the future holding up for American science, especially for NASA?
Although it is difficult to lay down Trump's plans with certainty, an op-ed recently published in Space News provides insight into how a Trump presidency will tackle current and future scientific issues.
During his campaign, Trump has said little about his stance on space exploration, until the final weeks before the election, when former congressman Robert Walker was introduced as his space policy advisor.
"I think the campaign figured out, at one point there, that they actually did need a space policy," said Walker.
Trump's Stance On Space Exploration And Earth Science
Walker, who co-wrote the Space News op-ed with economist Peter Navarro, explained that the Trump administration will likely focus more on deep-space activities and less on "Earth-centric work" handled by other agencies.
This suggests that NASA might be directed more into the commercialization and development of space technology, as well as on human space travel. On the other hand, it will provide less attention to Earth science and climate change research.
What Is The Future Of America's Earth Science Research?
One of the main points of Trump's proposed space policy is the handover of some of NASA's Earth Science missions to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.)
According to Walker, the administration will shift NASA budgets to "deep space achievements" instead of focusing on climate change and Earth science research. With the transfer comes some adjustments in budget, he said.
Walker tells The Verge that research conducted at NASA's Earth Science department is essentially related to weather and "Earth-based needs." He believes NOAA is likely a more "appropriate place" for Earth-centric studies.
This means that the Trump presidency's ambitious space framework could completely rearrange NASA's Earth Science division, which received an increase in funding under President Barack Obama's administration.
But the new presidency's main goal for science, Walker said, is to free up funds for the space agency's manned missions into deep space.
Trump's Goal Of Space Leadership
Some of the Trump administration's proposed space policies include a "commitment to global space leadership" which would produce security, jobs and technology for the U.S., said Walker.
The National Space Council, which will be headed by the Vice President, will be reinstituted to look over government space efforts. This council's last operation was during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.
The administration would like to develop tiny satellite technologies that can support the military, as well as satellite servicing technologies.
But what's most interesting is the government's proposal to hand over access and operations to low-Earth orbit to the commercial sector, which includes access to the International Space Station.
Furthermore, private aerospace and spaceflight companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin will likely play a significant role in space policy in the future.