FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump in Outer Space: the NASA Bill

“You could send Congress to space.”

— Senator Ted Cruz, Mar 21, 2017

The NASA authorisation bill was another Trump huff and puff show, brimming with the usual air of minted if misplaced confidence.  “My fellow Americans, this week in the company of astronauts I was honored to sign the NASA Transition Authorization Act right into law.”

The bill was meant to “renew our national commitment to NASA’s mission of exploration and discovery, and we continue a tradition that is as old as mankind.  We look to the heavens with wonder and curiosity.”  Ever hackneyed, always banal, and fastidiously clichéd – Trump’s touch of the reality show cannot be faulted on that level. The heavens may be gazed at, but what matters in Trumpland are earthbound desires fuelled by conventional concerns for finance and what sells.

Packaging is all in such promotional endeavours, even if it supposedly entails the same gift that has been provided for years.  “The bill will make sure that NASA’s most important and effective programs are sustained and orders NASA to continue… transitioning activities to the commercial sector where we have seen great progress.”

Delivered over YouTube, the video featured the Apollo 11 moon landing and that interplanetary conquistador, Neil Armstrong, taking his “one small step” for a US-led mankind.  Naturally, celebrations subsequent to gracing the lunar crust were also incorporated.

The Trump bonanza also reflected in his words on the Hubble Space Telescope. “In that tiny patch of sky, the Hubble Deep Field showed thousands of lights.  Each brilliant spot represented not a single star but an entire galaxy.  The discovery was absolutely incredible.”[1]

The theme of annexation and conquest, ever natural to the Trump instinct, is to push the US juggernaut into a messianic gear, driving exploration (or conquest?) further. The sense here is that Mars is up for grabs, a patch of real estate to be acquired sooner rather than later.  Commerce is there to be embraced, and national space agencies such as NASA are the front running agents.

The mission here is less one for humanity as one for US business, though much of this direction will become evident with the role of the National Space Council, which has made another appearance. “So many people and so many companies are so into exactly what NASA stands for.  So the commercial and the private sector will get to use these facilities, and I hope they’re going to be paying us a lot of money, because they’re going to make great progress.”

Very terrestrial, is Trump, and the organisation is hardly going to be getting funds to be scientific so much as aspiringly entrepreneurial.  For that reason, he sees sense in encouraging NASA’s Commercial Crew program, an agency initiative involving sending astronauts to and from the International Space Station using commercial spacecraft.

In a structural sense, the astronaut fraternity are at odds about the usefulness of a re-established Space Council.  Without backing from other White House offices, argues Marcia Smith of SpacePolicyOnline.com, it would merely be “a waste of resources” (Space.com, Dec 29, 2016).  Having been tried from 1958 to 1973, and again from 1989 to 1993, disposition to such a body has been fickle at best, seen often as more of a political instrument than a holistically dedicated one.

Much of that sentiment is driven by bureaucratic friction, the sort of fractiousness that instils adversarial dispositions rather than cooperative ones.  To get to space in a coordinated fashion is a difficult business, given the range of commercial, civilian and military ingredients that make up the policy.

The report card on that subject drawn up by James Vedda, senior policy analyst at The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Space Policy and Strategy in Arlington, Virginia, is far from glowing. Mistakes are bound to be repeated “if the administration establishes a space advisory mechanism that is too cumbersome, too far removed from senior decision makers, or poorly staffed.”

Scrapping over the budget pie and available resources tends to encourage that sort of sentiment.  In the words of Apollo astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, such a council, chaired by the Vice President, “might add clear White House support for the program, but it also would add another layer of bureaucracy on top of the [Office of Management and Budget].”

Buzz Aldrin, the second member of humanity to take steps on the moon, slants it differently, seeing such a body as “absolutely critical in ensuring that the president’s space priorities are clearly articulated, and effectively executed.”

Senator Ted Cruz may have been teasing with his remark to Trump about sending Congress to space. But Trump is exactly the sort of person who would approve.  He might even approve keeping them in astral isolation and deaf to the world, whatever the actual scientific merits of NASA’s next grand mission.  Things on the ground are ugly, and there are going to get more acrimonious.  No agency is going to spared bruising in the era of Trump.

Note.

[1] http://www.space.com/36219-president-trump-nasa-weekly-address.html

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail