Hidden amidst tax cuts, spending cuts, and calls for infrastructure revitalization, is President Donald Trump's desire to send humans back to the Moon.
Though it's gotten little to no media attention, Trump's 2019 budget proposal requests $19.6 billion for NASA, which is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the $4 trillion dollar federal government budget. Most of the funds would be allocated toward space exploration, 10 billion of which will "pursue a campaign that would establish US preeminence to, around, and on the Moon."
Building space stations around and on the Moon, such as the proposed Deep Space Gateway, would make launching deep space ventures like sending people to Mars easier, due to the Moon's low gravity. An abundance of water on the Moon can be converted into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel. A permanent presence on the Moon will also help scientists learn more about the history of our solar system and how well humans can live outside Earth's protective atmosphere and magnetic field. But the Moon is merely a pit-stop in the grander plan to explore the cosmos.
While returning to the Moon is certainly a necessity for further space exploration, the real prize is landing humans on Mars. A permanent settlement on Mars would be the ideal base for deeper exploration of our solar system and beyond. Mars can also, in theory, be terraformed to be more like Earth.
Donald Trump's NASA Budget focuses on Moon with an eye towards Mars https://t.co/odv5xtUI62 https://t.co/72rEsYoOxF— NDTV (@NDTV) 1518558600.0
But all this comes at a price. The president's budget proposal seeks to privatize the International Space Station and cease using federal dollars to fund the mult-national laboratory by 2025.
Trump budget ends US funding for International Space Station by 2025 https://t.co/URERuaKGLl https://t.co/BSy6oTScph— The Hill (@The Hill) 1518541085.0
Privatizing the ISS is a really poorly thought out plan, as Mark Berman pointed out on Twitter.
The White House plans to stop funding for the International Space Station after 2024 and wants to turn the station… https://t.co/1dRHmL1fRU— Mark Berman (@Mark Berman) 1518368324.0
"In space, no one can hear you scam," wrote economist Paul Krugman.
In space, nobody can hear you scam https://t.co/aihZch7XwO— Paul Krugman (@Paul Krugman) 1518445856.0
The idea of privatizing the ISS is so bad that even Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is breaking with the president, calling it "one of the dumbest things you can do."
Senator Ted Cruz said a proposal to end American financing for the International Space Station was "one of the dumb… https://t.co/R5ltRu0Nps— NYT Politics (@NYT Politics) 1518438725.0
Space exploration benefits all of humanity and should forever remain a shared effort between nations interested in the pursuit of science and the truth about the Universe. It is also essential for humans to find another home if we are to avoid extinction.