How will the US space program perform under Joe Biden? | Human world

White-haired man in a suit holds a microphone and stands in front of a large American flag.

United States President-elect Joe Biden speaks with supporters at a community event at Sun City MacDonald Ranch in Henderson, Nevada. Image via Planetary Society/ Gage Skidmore.

Just before 4 a.m. (12:00 UTCLast week (Jan 7, 2021), Congress confirmed it was Democratic Joe Biden Winner of the United States presidential election. vice president Mike PenceChaired the joint session and announced the outcome 306-232. Whatever your political leanings, if you were a fan of space, you watched closely during the Donald Trump administration because they supported NASA’s long-term goal of sending astronauts to Mars. And I’ve seen our nation’s trajectory change during the Trump era to the short-term goal of returning the next man and first woman to the moon by 2024, with Artemis a program. In general – in the era of Donald Trump – America’s view has shifted more strongly to the human missions to the moon and Mars. Will this focus continue under President Joe Biden? How can NASA expect a fare under Biden?

Here is some context. In 2017, Trump was appointed Jim Bridenstein, Republican Congressman from Oklahoma to run NASA. Congress – and the science and space communities – are surprised that NASA is usually run by a scientist, former astronaut, or other apolitical space expert. Bridenstein was finally confirmed by the Senate in April 2018, more than seven months after his appointment. Despite his lack of a space or science background, within two years as a NASA official, he appeared to be being respected by many. Right after Biden was elected, early November 2020, Bridenstine He announced that he would resign.

More context. Wonderful Missions to our Solar System that we hear so much about – so beloved Mars FleetAnd the new Horizons’ Dramatic sweep past Pluto, Cassini 13 years old at Saturn and so on – she is Robotic Missions. Backbone Missions to understand our missions Land And the Sun They are automatic tasks. There has been a decades-long attempt to balance smaller robotic missions like these, which are more fruitful, and the larger, brighter, and more expensive missions that can transport humans to the solar system. The decision to launch Cassini or New Horizons must be made decades ago; In fact, some of the most obvious and moving robotic missions of this century to date have been scientists’ lifelong work that began in the last decades of the twentieth century. Why can’t we do both types of tasks? Why the reality? But it appears that – in terms of the space program since it began in the late 1950s – the focus has shifted between human and robotic missions. This is just something to keep in mind.

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How will the US space program change under President Joe Biden? Biden is well-known in many ways. He served for decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president in the Obama administration. But his plans for NASA and the US space program are less clear.

The Biden campaign made little indication of its space priorities, except for some statements made during the Crew Dragon Demo 2 The launch took place on May 30, 2020, and was the first launch of NASA astronauts from US soil since 2011. Specifically, Biden wrote on his website:

As President, I look forward to leading a bold space program that will continue to send astronaut champions to expand our exploration and our scientific frontiers through investments in research and technology to help millions of people here on Earth.

The Democratic Party platform A practical list of the goals of the Democratic Party for the next four years has been proposed – Ali Podium Committee 2020 At its meeting on July 27, 2020. While it was comprehensive in its claims to support national health, economic growth, and racial equality, among others, the single reference to the space program was reduced to a few lines. No matter how brief, it was considered promising in my opinion John Logsdon, Founder of the George Washington University Space Policy Institute. The Democratic Platform not only endorsed NASA’s current plans, but also mentioned its priorities that range from science and technology development to the ongoing operation of International Space Station And human exploration of space:

Democrats continue to support NASA and are committed to continuing space exploration and discovery. We believe in continuing the spirit of discovery that drove the exploration of human space for NASA, in addition to its scientific and medical research, technological innovation, and the educational mission that allows us to better understand our planet and our place in the universe. We will enhance our support for the US role in space through our continued presence on the International Space Station, and work in partnership with the international community to continue scientific and medical innovation. We support NASA’s work to bring Americans back to the moon and go to Mars, and to take the next step in exploring our solar system. Democrats are also supporting the strengthening of NASA’s Earth observation missions and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to better understand how climate change affects our planet.

From what we can collect, two are big and imminent the changes probably.

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First, the Biden administration could bolster NASA and NOAA’s Earth observation capabilitiesWith the aim of better understanding Climate change. Laurie GarverNASA’s deputy director during the Obama administration, was the keynote speaker at Space Vision 2020 The conference will take place on 7 and 8 November 2020. She said:

It is likely, in my opinion, that managing the Earth’s capacity to sustain human life and biodiversity will dominate the Biden Harris administration’s civic space agenda.

Second, although it supports the return of man to the moon, the Biden administration has not specifically mentioned launch dates. Humans launch to the moon in 2024 as part of Mission Artemis It was the timeline of the Trump administration. There is speculation that the Biden administration will at least slow the Artemis program, and possibly free up funds for geosciences and other priorities elsewhere in the agency. On December 20, 2020, both houses of Congress in the United States government approved this NASA’s final budget for the fiscal year 2021. In the report accompanying the bill, Senate sources noted that the looming uncertainty “makes it difficult to analyze the future impacts that the accelerated moon mission financing will have on other important NASA missions.” Wendy Whitman Cobb, Associate Professor of Strategy and Security Studies, United States Air Force School of Advanced Air and Space Studies

I don’t think Artemis will be canceled. I also don’t think she will get more money than she is currently getting.

On November 10, the Biden administration announced candidate lists for Agency review teams It will be spread across the federal government to gather information and direct the Biden administration’s planning. Garver, who led the Obama administration’s transition, commented:

Transition teams are already coming in to see how things are and make recommendations for the way forward.

A man in a suit, standing under the NASA logo, in front of a machine set.

NASA President Jim Bridenstein speaks in December 2019, in front of the new building SLS Primary Stage to Artemis 1 Task. Days after Joe Biden was elected in November, Bridenstein announced his resignation on January 20, 2021. Who will replace him? Image via Wikimedia Commons.

One of Biden’s main priorities in space will be his selection of the new NASA administrator. He has been silent so far about his choice, but there has been much speculation about the potential candidates. That list is dominated by women. For example, Pam MillroyA former NASA astronaut who flew three shuttle missions is a likely choice. Other possibilities include Wanda Austin, Former President and CEO of the Space Corporation, W. Gretchen McLean, A former NASA administrator who later worked in the industry and served on the boards of several companies.

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Previous shifts indicate that a new NASA director may not come until months after opening January 20. After his inauguration in January 2009, President Obama did not nominate Charlie Bolden As Officer (and Garver as Deputy Responsible) until May 2009; The Senate approved it in July. Bridenstein, despite emerging as the top candidate for NASA director days after Trump won the presidential election in November 2016, was not until September 2017.

Astronauts, next to the lunar module, on a stark lunar surface, and the earth is in the sky.

An artist’s concept of an astronaut on the moon, staring at Earth, via NASA Artemis a program.

Conclusion: Democrat Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. What are his plans for NASA and the US space program? We expect to focus on Earth observation, especially that related to climate change. And we join many others in predicting that the goal of launching the next man and first woman to the moon in the Artemis program will be delayed from 2024.

Read more from EarthSky: NASA announced 18 astronauts on its Artemis team

Via the Democratic Party platform

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