What a Joe Biden Presidency May Mean in Orbit and Beyond

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Article by Ian Whittaker and Gareth Dorrian                                 November 11, 2020                                       (theconversation.com)

• Donald Trump set bold goals for space exploration during his time in office – from crewed missions to the Moon and Mars to a Space Force. Joe Biden has pledged to sign Executive Orders that will undo most of the Trump administration’s work – in the same way that Trump undid most of Obama’s work. But Biden has been relatively quiet on space policy. So how is space exploration likely to change going forward?

• During the Trump administration, NASA committed to the return of astronauts to the Moon in 2024 under the Artemis program. This builds on the Constellation program which was implemented by Republican president George W Bush in 2005 but was subsequently cancelled by Democratic president Barack Obama due to its high cost and difficulty.

• In a document released by the Democratic Party entitled “Building a Stronger, Fairer Economy”, the Democrats “support NASA’s work to return Americans to the Moon and go beyond to Mars, taking the next step in exploring our solar system.” Canada, the European Space Agency and Japan are all formal partners in the construction of the Lunar Gateway – a lunar orbiting outpost designed to support multiple expeditions to the Moon’s surface. It would be difficult for a Biden administration to unilaterally withdraw from the project.

• The Trump administration also pushed for a first crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s. An independent report by the Science and Technology Policy Institute in 2019 stated that a crewed Mars mission in the 2030s is currently unfeasible. It is unlikely Biden will try to resurrect this any time soon, especially since confronting the COVID-19 pandemic will likely drain discretionary funding.

• Viewing space as a potential war zone, the Trump administration formed Space Force. With a public approval rating of only 31%, Americans aren’t too impressed with the Space Force. But there are doubtlessly many difficulties of reintegrating Space Force back into the US Air Force. It is therefore likely that Space Force will remain in a Biden administration, possibly with reduced focus.

• US human spaceflight policy rarely survives a change in a Presidential administration. NASA’s chief, Jim Bridenstine, appointed by Trump, has already announced he is stepping down, saying that he wanted to let somebody with a “close relationship with the president” take over. Still, the success of the crewed SpaceX launch to the International Space Station means the commercial crew program is likely to keep running – taking the burden off NASA.

• Biden has made it clear that tackling climate emergency is a priority. While this is likely to be focused on industrial pollution limits and renewable energy sources, it does suggest that space policy could be more focused on Earth environmental observation satellite missions such as oil spills, deforestation and carbon emissions.

• Changes notwithstanding, many scientists will breath a sigh of relief at the prospect of not having to fight the kind of anti-science position that we have seen from Trump during his time in office.

 

Donald Trump set bold goals for space exploration during his time in office – from crewed missions to the Moon and Mars to a Space Force. By contrast, his successor Joe Biden has been relatively quiet on space policy. So how is space exploration likely to change going forward?

It is clear is that there will be change. NASA’s current chief, Jim Bridenstine, has already announced he is stepping down. And we know that US human spaceflight policy rarely survives a change in presidency.

That said, the amazing success of the crewed SpaceX launch to the International Space Station (ISS), however, means the commercial crew programme is likely to keep running – taking the burden off NASA. Indeed, the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon by commercial company SpaceX is due for launch on November 15, with four astronauts bound for the ISS.

During the Trump administration, NASA also committed to the return of astronauts to the Moon in 2024 under the Artemis program. This is due for its first test launch (uncrewed) next year with Artemis-1. This builds on the Constellation program which was implemented by Republican president George W Bush in 2005 but was subsequently cancelled by Democratic president Barack Obama due to its high cost and difficulty.

The only substantial clue as to the direction of a Biden presidency with regard to astronaut flights to the Moon can be found in a document by the Democratic Party entitled “Building a Stronger, Fairer Economy”. In one paragraph, the Democrats state that they “support NASA’s work to return Americans to the Moon and go beyond to Mars, taking the next step in exploring our solar system.”

No detail is offered on possible timelines. But, with international cooperation now a major feature of the Artemis program, it would be difficult for a fledgling Biden administration to unilaterally withdraw from the project. For example, Canada, the European Space Agency and Japan are all formal partners in the construction of the Lunar Gateway – a lunar orbiting outpost designed to support multiple expeditions to the surface.

The programme is also rapidly advancing research, particularly in terms of building materials, power supplies and food production. Just this week, the European Space Agency awarded a contract to the British company Metalysis to develop techniques to simultaneously extract oxygen and metals from lunar soil.

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Artemis program, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Jim Bridenstine, Joe Biden, Lunar Gateway, Mars, NASA, space force, SpaceX, The Moon


ExoNews Editor

Duke Brickhouse is a former trial lawyer and entertainment attorney who has refocused his life’s work to exposing the truth of our subjugated planet and to help raise humanity’s collective consciousness at this crucial moment in our planet’s history, in order to break out of the dark and negative false reality that is preventing the natural development of our species, to put our planet on a path of love, light and harmony in preparation for our species’ ascension to a fourth density, and to ultimately take our rightful place in the galactic community.

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