Since he was elected, it’s become more apparent than ever that Donald Trump is prone to rapidly changing his opinion on issues that got him elected. But one promise — delivered by Mike Pence while on the campaign trail in Florida — to “focus the mission of NASA on space exploration,” is looking pretty likely. What’s not looking good is NASA’s role in studying the Earth’s climate.
The Trump administration’s stance, according to former Congressman Robert Walker, who was appointed Trump’s space advisor during the campaign, is that “Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission.” Walker told The Guardian that during a Trump administration, NASA would instead focus its resources on deep-space exploration.
“It would be difficult to stop all ongoing NASA programs but future programs should definitely be placed with other agencies,” Walker said.
That means the satellites already collecting data on climate and other earthly phenomena would be safe for now, but there are now questions around any future missions.
Agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be responsible for picking up the slack when NASA pays less attention to the only planet in our solar system that is confirmed to support life.
“I believe that climate research is necessary but it has been heavily politicized, which has undermined a lot of the work that researchers have been doing,” Walker said. “Mr. Trump’s decisions will be based upon solid science, not politicized science.”
Walker served in the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1997, and was the chairman of the House Committee on Science for the final two years of his tenure. Since retiring, he’s worked as a lobbyist and served on a Department of Energy commission on hydrogen fuel cells. He also currently sits on the board of Space Adventures, a private space tourism company founded in 1998 and based in Virginia.
“We need good science to tell us what the reality is and science could do that if politicians didn’t interfere with it,” Walker said.