Recently the our president Donald Trump has declared that he plans to shift NASA’s direct focus from Mars back to the Moon. These last several years Obama set the focus of NASA on reaching Mars. This looked like the next step for humanity and has even started a new space race. Some independent companies, most widely known being spaceX led by Elon Musk has made plans of colonizing Mars by 2022 and recently Boeing also joined the race. This change in plans will lead to NASA withdrawing from this race for the time being. This could potentially be devastating for our budget and completely change what seemed like the future of humanity. Colonizing Mars was always a dream and out of this world idea but as of late this idea became close to a reality, this may change that. On the other side, if you dig deeper this may have been a smart move from Trump, further research is needed.
One major issue NASA has faced in the last several presidencies is that with each new president there comes a new plan for space exploration which doesn’t allow the previous mission to be completed. This first occurred with Bush setting sights on the Moon once again, however this quickly changed when Obama came into presidency announcing we would reach for Mars. Now the agenda has once again changed back to the Moon. This impedes our productivity and makes it nearly impossible to actually make reasonable progress. In a great site I found explaining this to me, previous astronaut, Scott Kelly, says, “We’re always asked to change directions every time we get a new president, and that just causes you to do negative work, work that doesn’t matter….I just hope someday we’ll have a president that will say, ‘You know what, we’ll just leave Nasa on the course they are on, and see what Nasa can achieve if we untie their hands.’” Scott Hubbard, a former director of Nasa Ames Research Center says, “Please don’t push the reset button again, because you’re just going to waste billions of dollars of previous investment.” To think that the progress of technology and exploration of space is being impeded by a few men too stubborn to let their predecessors be successful is truly sad.
When taking a deeper look into these plans, there may great potential for this new agenda. Nothing has been confirmed yet but we imagine the shift in focus onto the moon would mean perhaps building an ISS in the moon’s orbit or even building a moon base. Traveling to Mars is a huge leap and it is great idea to use the moon as a great stepping stone. There is a lot we do not know about how people and life in general will fair away from our planet. The change in gravity and radiation could create long term issues that we have no clue about. Travelling to the Moon first would help us understand how our bodies and other forms of life might react to such dramatic changes. Partially colonizing the Moon could be an extremely helpful tool in eventually colonizing Mars. Although as it was pointed out earlier that this could throw billions down the drain, the rocket being built for Mars could also be used to travel to the Moon and many other technologies being built wouldn’t so much be wasted but delayed for future use. These plans have been criticized heavily but I remain on the fence on whether or not this will be productive and efficient in our exploration of space.
Charlie, this is a very interesting insight. I have always found it to be counter intuitive for a president to change the focus of NASA’s work when so much money has already gone into it. My dad used to work at NASA in the aerospace medicine program and so this is a topic that has been floating around my household for quite some time. It would be interesting to see what NASA would accomplish if politics stayed out of it. I’m looking forward to seeing your future writings! Btw here is a link that could be useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budget_of_NASA
It is discouraging that politics can impede the exploration of science. However, it might be the more practical option. Space travel is expensive, and a mission to Mars might not seem like the best allocation of resources. Faith is not lost though, as companies like SpaceX have put out exciting deadlines for Mars exploration. Either way, a trip to space, Mars or the Moon, is exciting.
This a fantastic topic, and I had no idea how much politics affected NASA. I guess I forgot that NASA is a government funded organization. It sucks that they are at the whims of whoever is in office. I’m sure they have more knowledge of what is best for this country in terms of exploration than any president does. Its very unfortunate that politics can hinder our progress on science, because in my opinion they should be separate. I think you might like this piece which takes a similar approach:
Thanks so much for the interesting article, I look forward to hearing more.