MILKY WAY (CBSMiami) — In an open letter to President Donald Trump, the science guy has urged him to make continuing advancements in space science and exploration that will define NASA’s future for generations to come a priority.
In a 6-minute video presentation that coincides with a larger report, science celebrity Bill Nye, who also acts as CEO of The Planetary Society, the world’s largest independent non-profit space organization, gave five recommendations to the new administration “as it contemplates the future of the U.S. space program.”
- Maintain the exploration of Mars as the organizing principle for NASA’s human spaceflight program
- Direct NASA to plan an executable, affordable path for sending humans to Mars orbit by 2033
- Expand NASA’s highly successful science portfolio
- Continue to grow and support the commercial space industry
- Initiate annual five percent increases to NASA’s budget for five years
“NASA should maintain its historic focus on Mars, though there are near-term opportunities at the Moon,” the organization said on its webpage. “The orbit-first plan highlighted by The Planetary Society in 2015 provides a proof-of-concept for missions in cis-lunar space that will test hardware, human endurance, and operations needed for Mars. Operating in cis-lunar space could allow NASA to provide a supportive role for true commercial endeavors on the lunar surface while maintaining focus on sending humans to Mars.”
The Trump administration proposed a 0.8 percent decrease for NASA’s budget in 2018, with a $19.1 billion proposal that focuses on deep space exploration, both human and robotic, along with an increase in public and private partnerships that would lower costs and encourage innovation in the private sector.
That budget, however, doesn’t mention human missions to Mars.
“Mars is the goal,” Nye urges. “We strongly recommend against starting over. Let’s maintain all of the existing programs, robotic missions, crew capsules, and rocket programs, already in development. Let’s keep this momentum going and get humans to Mars in our lifetimes.”
Trump’s budget would also eliminate Obama administration’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, NASA’s Office of Education, and several Earth-science research missions.
“The Earth Science Division provides unique data on our home planet,” said The Planetary Society. “But science divisions have struggled to properly prepare for the next generation of missions, and growth is needed to rebuild these programs — particularly the Planetary Science Division.”
Experts say the budgetary cuts aren’t as deep as many may have feared. Instead, the restructuring will aim to refocus on ways of “reducing the costs of exploration missions to enable a more expansive exploration program,” the Office of Management and Budget said.
At an attempt to massage the president’s ego, Nye encouraged the possibility of great achievements during Trump’s time in office.
“Ever since it was created, NASA has had bi-partisan support,” said Nye. “You have the opportunity to provide clear direction to our nation’s space program. The advances and discoveries made on your watch could be historic.”