While many federal agencies are facing deep budget cuts, President Donald Trump appears to think NASA is on the right track.
The president made that sentiment more official on Tuesday by signing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017. The bill basically says the space agency should stay the course, including plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.
In fact, by signing the NASA funding bill into law, Trump actually set a more aggressive goal for getting to our planetary next door neighbor. The bill specifically mentions targeting 2033 for a human spaceflight mission to the Red Planet. Previously, former President Barack Obama and NASA had talked in more vague terms about launching such a mission in the mid-2030s or later.
The bill also emphasizes the continuation of NASA’s partnership with commercial space companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which have been awarded contracts from the space agency. SpaceX has its own aggressive timeline for not just getting to Mars, but colonizing the place in the coming decades.
Notably, the bill makes no mention of continuing NASA’s ongoing earth science efforts: the space agency has played a leading role in climate science for decades.
At the signing ceremony Trump asked the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), if he’d be willing to go into space. The congressman replied: “You could send Congress into space.”
Many Americans will surely be disappointed to hear that the bill lays out no timeline for such a mission.