All of us probably were left a little numb after 2016. With so much upheaval in the world of politics, combined with a seemingly endless stream of celebrities passing away, including Ed Mitchell and John Glenn to name but two from the world of human exploration, Many of us simply could not wait for the year to be over.
With 2017 barely a week old, we're facing some significant upheaval in the world of space science though. The incumbent new President of the United States has already, pre his taking office, laid out his plans for NASA, culling in essence many of the Earth Observation programs, in favour of more ambitious plans. Could this be what Trump means when he says he will make America "Great Again"?
Mars is on NASA's plan, and post the Zubrin era excitement of the late 90s with his audacious and well thought through plan on a budget "way" less than any other, to deliver humans to the red planet (Combined with the ambitions of SpaceX), Trump could do no worse than to truly get behind these missions, with the SLS/Orion now gaining more public favour again.
The issue as ever is one of budget. With cuts in tax and overall spending plans still the subject of much speculation, so largely it's a guessing game, but one thing is for sure. If Trump and his nationalistic stance are to really deliver something that history can look back on and say "despite all the fears, he actually did something good" then a return to the heady days of Apollo would be one such thing.
However, with the new President comes new challenges. The budget for NASA comes from around $1 Trillion of what is known as "Discretionary Spending", and half of that usually goes on defence. This figure may rise, and others will undoubtedly fall as a result..sadly this would include NASA's already paltry amount, vastly less than they had in the 1960's.
But again, to kind of urge the American people to get behind their new President, much like the JWST, and the threat of cancellation to that project, the threat to NASA with a huge budget cut would cause untold harm, not only to exploration, but international science and indeed, American science.
Politicians listen to their voters, if their voters rise up in big enough numbers behind a cause.
Space exploration is a cause...