(Andrew Follett, The Daily Caller News Foundation) – President Donald Trump could send astronauts to Mars by the end of his presidency, according to a major rocket scientist.
Under current law signed by Trump, NASA is supposed to send astronauts to Mars by 2033, but experts worry that this isn’t soon enough.
“Given equally strong presidential leadership, we could certainly be on Mars by the end of the current administration’s prospective second term,” Dr. Robert Zubrin, who helped design plans for NASA’s manned mission to Mars and wrote the “The Case For Mars,” told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “For anyone to say this is not possible is simply to accept the idea that we are no longer the kind of people we used to be. That is not the way to make America great again.”
Trump’s administration requested NASA to return astronauts to the moon’s orbit in 2019, and didn’t schedule a Mars mission until 2033. Zubrin worries that this long-time horizon could make a Mars mission vulnerable to cancellation by whichever president comes after Trump.
“From a technical point of view, we are much closer today to being able to send humans to Mars than we were to being able to send men to the Moon in 1961, when JFK started the Apollo program, and we were there 8 years later,” Zubrin told TheDCNF.
Trump’s plans to accelerate NASA’s return to the moon will require several missions to orbit the moon to test technology in the 2020s, which NASA says will create the expertise necessary for a manned mission to Mars. One Trump adviser told the Washington Post sending astronauts to orbit the moon was intended to be “a clear signal” to the Chinese that the U.S. will retain its dominance in space.
Either a Mars and moon mission would likely require the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket currently being debated in Congress. America’s storied space agency will study the feasibility of converting the recent test of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule into a new crewed lunar mission, propelling two astronauts to the moon and back by 2019.
Zubrin previously told The DCNF that accelerating NASA’s return to the moon could potentially save taxpayers $10 billion dollars in expenses.
The bill Trump signed to send NASA to Mars passed both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate with near-unanimous support. The entire program will not result in significant increases in the NASA budget, but will be paid for by cutting spending on earth sciences, global warming research and heliophysics.
Trump vowed to “unlock the mysteries of space” in his inaugural address, lending credence to reports he discussed sending humans to Mars in a private meeting with billionaire Elon Musk. During a speech to the Joint Session of Congress in late February, Trump said, “American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.” Vice President Mike Pence met with Apollo 11 astronaut and Mars mission advocate Buzz Aldrin earlier this month to talk about the future of the U.S. space program.
Trump has yet to name a NASA director to implement his vision for space, but leaked documents state Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a former Navy pilot, is the top contender.
The president may free up money for his space plans by slashing the more than $2 billion NASA spends on its Earth Science Mission Directorate, which covers global warming science, and divert that money towards space exploration.
Former President Barack Obama tried for years to eliminate the SLS and Orion programs, but Congress rescued the rocket. Obama took money from space exploration programs to fund Earth science programs.
Experts have long suspected Trump’s space agenda will fund exploration with robotic probes and, later, sending humans to Mars with money diverted from NASA’s global warming science programs. Another billionaire space entrepreneur, Robert Bigelow, thinks Trump could double NASA’s budget in the future.
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