The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, is pulling double duty trying to influence the incoming president’s Space policy. Session’s home state is the home of NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center where the heavy lift Space Launch System is being developed. The SLS will provide the space agency the capability to launch 130 metric tons into low Earth orbit in one launch. The rocket, however, has been expensive to develop and will be costly to operate, according to some critics.

Part of the strategy to make certain that the SLS retains its role in NASA’s future space exploration plans is the selection of a NASA Administrator. A new name has been added to the list, Doug Cooke, a former NASA official who worked on the Ares rockets that were part of the now-cancelled Constellation program and is now a champion of the SLS. Cooke is a member of the NASA landing team, currently evaluating the current state of the space agency in advance of the beginning of the Trump presidency.

His selection as administrator would be seen as a signal that a NASA-centric approach to space exploration will prevail. However, as policy is likely to be set at the National Space Council level, that is by no means certain.

The decision about what to do about NASA may be a lower priority than building the wall, cutting taxes and regulations, and repealing Obamacare. However, if the space agency is going to play a role in Trump’s desire to “make America great again” the decision has to be made sooner rather than later.

Should America go back to the moon on the way to Mars? What role will the commercial space sector and its launch systems and spacecraft play in such an undertaking? Should NASA receive significantly increased funding? What about international partners? Typically changes in space policy can take a year or more. Trump, however, has shown a capability to make decisions with dispatch, albeit after due deliberation.

It should be noted that two space moguls, SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos, are attending a so-called “tech summit” at the Trump Tower. By no means is it certain that space will come up during the meeting.

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