The Verge reminds us that #bill nye the Science Guy had some helpful suggestions before the last election about the future direction of NASA for the “next president.” No doubt the bow tied head of the #Planetary Society had no idea that the president was going to be Donald Trump, a man he has no use for because of differences on the issue of climate change. Nevertheless, the report has some resonance as the Trump administration mulls future space policy.
One area where the Trump Administration and Nye are in agreement is the necessity of establishing partnerships with the commercial space sector. Companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Moon Express can provide services to NASA at lower cost and with greater flexibility than if the #Space Agency tried to procure them in the traditional way.
The White House and the Planetary Society are likely to part ways about keeping NASA’s focus on Mars. Trump is said to favor a pivot to the moon, and commercial companies are eager to participate. Nye views the moon as a distraction that would push Mars off to the distant future. However, a number of studies, including one by MIT, suggest that access to lunar water, which can be refined into rocket fuel, would actually make Mars cheaper and less complicated.
One other possible point of contention is the Planetary Society’s recommendation to increase NASA’s budget by five percent a year for the next five years. These funding increases would raise the space agency’s budget to about $25 to $26 billion a year by FY 2023, depending on what the baseline is. That level of spending would be healthy enough to accommodate a robust deep space exploration program and an expanded planetary science program. The level would also likely preserve Earth Science, even though Nye’s suggestions did not include that space agency account.
However, faced with infrastructure spending, a tax cut, and military expansion, it is considered unlikely that NASA will be able to have such spending increases. The betting is that the space agency will likely have its funding cut, mostly from Earth Science, to pay for a needed military expansion program.