Monday, December 11, 2017

Dreaming Big: US President Trump Signs Directive to Send Americans Back to the Moon, Probably!

          By Henry Stewart

US president Donald Trump has signed a directive, instructing NASA to return Americans to the Moon, with the intent to one day send them to Mars.

Canada is hoping to tag along for the ride.

The US president signed the order during a ceremony in the Oval Office on December 11th, 2017, while surrounded by members of the recently re-established National Space Council (NSC), along with active NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch and Peggy Whitson, retired Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and retired astronaut Jack Schmitt, who flew to the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

As outlined in the December 11th, 2017 post, "President Trump Directs NASA to Return to the Moon, Then Aim for Mars," the signed space policy directive makes official a recommendation approved by the NSC in October, 2017.

The recommendation called for NASA to return American astronauts to the moon and build the foundation needed to send Americans to Mars and beyond.

The unstated assumption is that, as outlined in the December 1st, 2017 post, "Deep Space Gateway 'Key Part of Exploration Roadmap'," the architecture which will be used to return Americans to the Moon will begin with the proposed Deep Space Gateway (DSG), a crew-tended cislunar space station concept proposed for possible partnership between NASA, Roscosmos and other current International Space Station (ISS) partners for construction after the ISS is retired in the 2020s.

At least that's what Canada is hoping.

That's why, as outlined in the October 26th, 2017 post, "A Quick Overview of the Next Few Expected Federal Announcements Concerning the Canadian Space Industry," our Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has climbed aboard the DSG bandwagon.

As for the funding, according to the December 11th, 2017 Reuters post, "Trump wants to send US astronauts back to moon, someday Mars," NASA has indicated that initial funding for the new policy would be included in its budget request for fiscal year 2019.

Of course, American presidents have had a poor track record in recent years when it comes to defining space policy. As outlined in the December 11th, 2017 Time Magazine post, "Trump Wants to Send Astronauts Back to the Moon. Will That Really Happen?," the current plans reverse President Barack Obama’s space policy, which called "for NASA to capture a small asteroid, move it to the vicinity of the moon and send astronauts out to explore it."

According to the post:
Obama’s oddball plan, in turn, reversed President George W. Bush’s plan, which was a lot closer to Trump’s. And Bush’s at least altered President Bill Clinton’s, which was focused almost entirely on the space shuttle and the International Space Station, with little thought of the moon at all. 
Before Clinton, the first President Bush briefly flirted with Mars, but only until analysts ball-parked the cost of the mission at half a trillion dollars. 
By contrast, the Apollo program’s principal objective — to get American astronauts onto the moon and to do it before 1970 – was a shared vision of four presidents, from Eisenhower through Nixon.
But will the latest US president have any greater success than his recent predecessors? Maybe not.

As outlined in the November 30th, 2017 Space News op-ed, "A house divided, or in this case, a rocket," the DSG was once a part of the cancelled US Constellation program (CxP), and keeps popping up every few years as a legitimate answer to the question of what to do with all the NASA scientists and engineers involved with the ISS after that program is shut down sometime in the 2020s.

According to the plan, you can transfer the ISS scientists and engineers to another space station, the DSG, which will use most of the same tools developed for the ISS. That's why Canada is on-board with the program. We get to re-use all the Canadarm technology originally developed for the ISS.

In essence, the real story here might be the continuing concern NASA and space scientists have over their ongoing job security and the hoops politicians are willing to jump through in order to retain the support of those scientists and engineers.

This might not be a problem president's or prime ministers can solve by returning to the Moon or going to Mars. But as long as everyone pretends, the jobs continue and the political base remains secure.

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Support our Patreon Page