Article by Mark Whittington August 30, 2020 (thehill.com)
• Among the promises that President Trump has made as part of his “Contract with America,” (see here) should he be re-elected, will be to “launch Space Force, establish permanent manned presence on the Moon, and send the first manned mission to Mars.”
• A permanent Moon base is not likely to happen in Trump’s second term. Nor will a mission to Mars. As his presidency draws to a close, the best that Trump can hope for during a second term is to preside over the first human Moon landing since 1972. The lunar landing promises to include the first woman to step on the Moon, ever.
• President Trump has executed the most far-reaching space policy since President Kennedy’s race to the Moon. Deep space exploration programs that involve returning astronauts to the Moon and dispatching crewed expeditions to Mars have been a perennial project for Republican presidents. Trump has proposed a deep space exploration program that employs a combination of NASA and the commercial sector. Both Trump’s executive orders and Congressional legislation have encouraged the economic development of space, particularly mining the Moon and the asteroids along with space-based manufacturing.
• Trump’s space agenda is more remarkable because he gave barely a hint of it during his first campaign. Twice, when he was running for president, Trump was dismissive of sending humans to Mars. Now he can talk of little else.
• While the idea of a separate space-faring military branch has been kicked around for years, the Space Force initiative came out of the blue. In a remarkably short time, Trump has turned an obscure policy proposal into reality. While some critics mock the Space Force, others agree that the nation’s dependence on communications satellites and GPS needs a Space Force branch to defend those assets.
• The Democrats have, quite cleverly, endorsed the President’s space agenda in their own party platform (see here), suggesting that it doesn’t matter who is president insofar as space is concerned. But how would a President Biden go to advance deep space exploration, commercial space development and the Space Force? No one can be quite sure about Biden, especially as he is being heavily influenced by space opponents like Bernie Sanders.
• We don’t know whether Joe Biden would work to enhance America’s space power, and one suspects that he won’t, if elected. Trump, on the other hand, will work relentlessly to make America a space superpower.
Instead of a party platform, the Republicans have deferred to President Donald Trump, who has offered what is in effect a “Contract with America,” similar to the one Newt Gingrich drew up in advance of the 1994 midterm elections. Among the promises Trump has made is the following:
“Launch Space Force, Establish permanent manned presence on the moon and send the first manned mission to Mars.”
The space promise, succinct and to the point, elicits a couple of quibbles.
First, a permanent moon base is not likely to happen in the second term. Nor will a mission to Mars. As his presidency draws to a close, the best that Trump can hope for is to preside over the first human moon landing since 1972, a remarkable feat regardless.
Also, the use of the adjective “manned” is likely to trigger outrage in certain quarters. America has been launching female astronauts since Sally Ride’s first flight in the early 1980s. Indeed, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine always takes pains to state that the first human moon landing in over 40 years will consist of “the first woman and the next man.”
One can also point out that, like the space plank in the Democratic Party platform, Trump’s promise lacks certain specifics. However, the president has a record forged during his current term that fills in the blanks in great detail.
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