Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Friday. His speech, not unexpectedly, was slim on specifics about what he envisioned to do over the next four, possibly eight, years. Even less expected was any talk about space, but Trump managed to make a quick, vague reference to U.S. investigations regarding space exploration (emphasis ours).
“We stand at the birth of a new millennium ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.
Since his election, Trump has refrained from directly discussing his plans for NASA and U.S. space policy himself — instead allowing his team to do that work for him, and also by letting the appointments to his NASA transition team essentially speak for themselves. Based on those things, the few actions one could reasonably expect are:
- Vice President Mike Pence will probably be directing space policy for the administration.
- The new administration may be looking into an extensive push to strengthen military assets in space and create a concerted push to further militarize Earth’s orbit.
- NASA’s budget might be downsized in an effort to boost to allow the commercial sector to take over low Earth orbit operations and research.
- NASA’s Earth science programs — essential for studying climate change — will probably be shred to pieces.
So when Trump says he wants to “unlock the mysteries of space,” don’t let the ambiguity of that phrase make you believe he has no plans for space. He has plans — they just aren’t very good, and will probably do more to impede this goal to learn more about space than aid it.
Perhaps the only way a Trump presidency can leave a lasting, positive legacy for American space work is if we find aliens. And let’s be clear: If aliens ever do land on Earth and want to talk to our leaders, Donald Trump may be the last person we want chatting with our extraterrestrial visitors. Yikes.