When the rumors started the afternoon before President Donald Trump’s address before a #Joint Session of Congress that he was going to make a call for more #space exploration, a rare excitement spread through the aerospace community. Trump has been known to favor a return to the moon using commercial partnerships. NASA has already been ordered to study the possibility of a crewed flight around the moon by 2019. SpaceX is planning a similar mission a year earlier. The president had been advised to include space in his first speech before Congress. The reality was inspirational but fell short of JFK calling for sending a man to the moon in 1961 or President Ronald Reagan announcing the space station project in 1984.
Still, the one line Trump spoke, as part of a vision of the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, was inspirational. "American footprints on #Distant Worlds are not too big a dream."
The statement was vague but had two specific bits of detail. “American footprints” and “distant worlds” plural. What was the president getting at?
Some, like Ars Technica’s Eric Berger, groused the mere footprints was insufficient a space vision. We need to go back to the moon and on to Mars not just to plant a few footprints, but to stay, live, and work.
Others noticed the word “worlds.” Which ones? The moon, of course, and likely Mars as well. Remember that the 250th anniversary takes place in 2026, nine years away.
Marcia Smith notes that the real details of Trump’s vision for space will start to be revealed with his budget proposal. We know that the budget will include a much needed $54 billion increase in defense spending to be paid for by a corresponding cut of the same amount in domestic priorities. Will some of that money come out of NASA? How will American footprints appear on distant worlds if the space agency’s budget is cut or even remains flat?
In short, Trump’s single line about space fell short of a concrete vision for space exploration, likely because it is a work in progress. Stay tuned.