Elon Musk is the name associated with innovation, and seemed like the only person with the means and wherewithal to get humans to Mars. His ambitious vision would place large numbers of humans on the Red Planet at a time where NASA and other space agencies seemed uninterested, underfunded, or unable. Now that has all changed, as NASA has recently outlined their plan to get humans to Mars. They plan on doing it by 2033.
What Lit the Fire in These Rockets?
I am a total space geek and this news has excited me to my core. I found it surprising that President Trump’s administration was the one to have issued a Kennedy Moonshot style mandate to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, but welcomed the news. Frankly, I was confused by the businessman-turned-president’s plan because it appeared to allocate more tax money to sciences when his main agenda appeared to be keeping fossil fuel jobs and lower taxes. Lowering taxes would work against the $19.51 Billion dollar in some way, I would think, and NASA has conducted damning research which puts human made emissions at the center of global climate change. President Trump has called climate change a hoax in the past. So what is going on here? Why would so much money be allocated to an agency which may be so counterproductive to the administration’s agenda?
The truth is that NASA’s overall budget has not really changed, but rather certain allocations have been increased and decreased. This is fairly typical of government budgets, as inflating and deflating various aspects of tax money that is already spent can better reflect administration agendas and politicians can point to these “achievements” as changes that they have championed. Looking at the ebb and flow of the NASA budget reveals that climate change research allocation has been drastically reduced.
Like this Forever?
Even with the knowledge that any more money put toward getting the technology and methods to land humans on Mars -without securing additional revenue from Congress- will likely put the only place in the known universe that we can live in greater peril, I am still very excited about the Mars mission and plan on following it closely.
This does not distract from the gravity -pardon the space pun- of the situation. The United States is a leading figure in the world of planetary and Earth science research. Our wealth of brilliant minds collaborate with others around the world, even a smaller presence will likely feel as if we are somewhat absent.
What I need to remind myself of when I get concerned over how budgets may be working against Earth Sciences -and I encourage all of you other warriors as well to consider this-, budgets literally change every year and administrations change fairly often as well. Even if President Trump secures a second term, he will be out of office seven years before this mission takes place. Also other governments have NASA counterparts which can maintain their Earth Science research -and the US’s won’t completely disappear either- regardless of how the US budget affects NASA. This may even open the door for more citizen science, business science, and academic endeavors. Call me an optimist, maybe I’m just too excited for our Marshot.