Recently the journal Space News sent out a questionnaire to the presidential candidates to ascertain their thinking on aerospace issues. The response from Donald Trump, the real estate tycoon, reality TV star, and Republican front-runner was illuminating, to say the least. He believes that the extent of what NASA would do under his administration would largely depend on the state of the economy and military readiness.

To be sure, much of Trump’s response consisted of standard boilerplate that almost every other political candidate will issue concerning NASA and the space program.

Trump called NASA “one of the most important agencies in the United States government for most of my lifetime.” He lauded the space agency for expanding the envelope of exploration. He suggested that NASA has a vital role in developing alternate energy sources, living space, and technological advances. He touted the “growing partnership” between government and the private sector for space exploration.

However, Team Trump also seems to regard NASA and its activities as something that must take a back seat to the need to restore the economy and rebuild the military.

Trump does not indicate that the space agency might have a vital role in restoring economic growth or enhancing military readiness.

The report does not go very deep into some of the burning issues surrounding the nation’s space program. Should NASA continue on its current course on the Journey to Mars? Or should the space agency, in partnership with private business and international partners, return to the moon, partly with a view to developing its resources?

To what extent should NASA partner with private companies like SpaceX, Moon Express, and Bigelow Aerospace? Should large parts of NASA be outsourced to the private sector? Should China be asked to become a space partner?

The bottom line, judging from the answers to the questionnaire, is that the hypothetical President Trump will not regard NASA or space exploration as any significant priority. Do not look for any tremendous changes in how the space agency does business.

If anything, one should expect NASA to be constricted even more than it already has been, at least until the budget is in surplus, economic growth is restored, and the American military is strong again. Space is not a factor in “making America great again” in Trump’s mind.

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