President Donald Trump has outlined the priorities in his budget as far as NASA is concerned. He would provide stable funding for a Mars mission but, not for other activities like bringing astronauts to an asteroid. His intention is to introduce cuts in programs related to Earth science. However, support to undertake a mission to study Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and improvement in cybersecurity of the space program will get necessary funding.

USA Today reports that the budget proposal for NASA in 2018 is expected to be $19.1 billion which is more or less similar to the allocation of $19.3 billion for the current year.

Dramatic shift in priorities

The vision of President Donald Trump for NASA appears to be different to that of President Barack Obama. One of the present objectives appears to be to increase cooperation with industry via public-private partnerships. Moreover, he feels that the focus should shift from Earth-centric research to efforts directed toward deep space exploration and wants NASA to develop technologies that would not only meet U.S. space goals but also benefit the economy.

The final budget could have changes after it gets approved by Congress, but, one thing is certain -- it will be the end of the Asteroid Redirect Mission, or ARM. In the opinion of NASA, the Asteroid Redirect Mission would have been a fruitful and relatively low-cost stepping stone to Mars that would have helped the cause.

There could be second thoughts on this aspect at a later date.

Will the Moon mission survive?

On the face of it, the Moon mission could face the axe. The two-page outline of the budget proposal that has been released does not make any mention of the moon – it is considered to be a costly venture in view of the price tag of a lunar lander.

However, it needs to be noted that the Moon mission may be revived by Congress. The technical reason is that it could be of assistance during the Mars mission of NASA. Another, and a more important one, is a non-technical reason and it is connected to revenue generation. It is about exploitation of natural resources on the Moon.

This will give rise to possibilities of setting up commercial partnerships in the form of mining on the Moon which could earn revenue.

It must not be forgotten that China and some other countries already have their sights set on the Moon.