Friday 25 November 2016

Trump May Want A US Base On The Moon


Donald Trump may use climate change research cash to blast astronauts back to the moon as part of his mission to ‘Make America Great Again’.

Members of the US space community believe Trump’s presidential victory could lead to the resurrection of space agency Nasa’s lunar programme, which has not put a man on the moon since 1972.

The huge cost of lunar missions has been the main reason for their demise, blocked either by presidents or Congress. However, Trump pledged in his campaign to ‘free’ Nasa from researching global warming and other mundane operations close to Earth. Instead, the US will ‘lead the way to the stars’.

Veteran Republican politician Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s closest advisers, is a space fanatic who has argued for years that the US should set up a permanent base on the moon. He has been assuring sceptics that costs won’t be prohibitive if Nasa works with private companies keen to invest in space.

The Republicans also control Congress, making it far less likely that space dreams will be blocked by the bean counters on Capitol Hill.

It is expected that Trump, a climate change sceptic who once dismissed it as a ‘Chinese hoax’, will demand that Nasa move away from researching global warming and weather forecasting, and set its sights once again on deep space.

Nasa boss Charles Bolden steps down in January and Mr Trump will appoint a successor. Two leading contenders are both in favour of another moon shot. Barack Obama supported a Nasa goal of reaching Mars with a manned mission by 2035 and experts believe a Trump White House will insert a mission to the moon – possibly involving other countries in Europe and Japan – as a step on the way to Mars.

Part of Trump’s reasoning may be political. Florida is a key swing election state and, as the home of Nasa, the space industry has historically provided many jobs there.

Campaigning in the state, Trump said he planned ‘major investments in space exploration’, adding: ‘So many good things come out of it, including great jobs.’

He accused successive Democrat administrations of ‘undermining’ the country’s space programme, allowing other countries – notably Russia, which is planning its own colony on the moon, but also China and India – to take the initiative while the US watches from the sidelines.

Sceptics, however, wonder where the money will come from to finance Trump’s moon dreams. Casey Dreier, of The Planetary Society, a space research charity, said that if the president-elect carried out his promised spending and tax cuts, Nasa will have trouble enough continuing its current programmes ‘much less expanding them beyond Earth’.



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