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Trump signs directive returning us to the Moon, sending us to Mars ...and beyond.
Good news, everyone!
Are you like me? Do you love the space program? Are you baffled by the fact that we've spent 40 years going into repeated low-Earth orbits that, while certainly pretty and interesting, have - even according to some astronauts - failed to push the limits of human ability?
If you are, yesterday was potentially a big day. President Trump signed a directive that redirects NASA's efforts - placing us on a path that will hopefully send astronauts back to the moon, to Mars, and beyond.
The president Monday signed at the White House Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.
The policy calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.” The effort will more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans on the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.
“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” said President Trump. “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints -- we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”
And yes, that means NASA will need some cash.
Work toward the new directive will be reflected in NASA’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request next year.
“NASA looks forward to supporting the president’s directive strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond,” said acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. “This work represents a national effort on many fronts, with America leading the way. We will engage the best and brightest across government and private industry and our partners across the world to reach new milestones in human achievement. Our workforce is committed to this effort, and even now we are developing a flexible deep space infrastructure to support a steady cadence of increasingly complex missions that strengthens American leadership in the boundless frontier of space. The next generation will dream even bigger and reach higher as we launch challenging new missions, and make new discoveries and technological breakthroughs on this dynamic path.”
Here's the video of the President's announcement:
I get that there's a contingent of conservatives, Libertarian leaners especially, who view the space program as a massive waste of resources. They would argue that there is no constitutional mandate that compels a federal space program. I'd counter that with three points.
The first is that the next space race won't just be a "noble endeavor" to advance science. Humanity is at the point where space ops will once again be at the forefront of defense, international diplomacy, and geopolitical maneuvering. On that basis alone, we should be engaged in an effort to reach for the stars.
Second, humanity's eggs are all in one celestial basket. There is no greater "common good" than the continued existence of our species. The faster we colonize another planetary body, the better.
Third, It's just cool. If we're going to keep funneling money to the federal government - and right now we don't have a major political party that's suggesting otherwise - we might as well spend it on something that leads, inspires, and furthers humanity's understanding of the cosmos.