Of all the speculations being made about the plans Donald Trump has for the United States, this one may really perk up the ears of space fans in a good way.
“We choose to go to
the MoonMars, not because it is easy, but because it is hard and would be a huge deal for my presidency.”
– Future President Trump speech
The future is anyone’s crystal ball with the Trump administration, but there are some credible breadcrumbs out there worth a second look and arguably optimistic conjecture about a Mars-Trump-Elon Musk connection.
Here’s the gluten trail:
- Elon Musk has joined Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, signaling Trump’s interest in his business expertise and his access to Trump
- Musk has had at least one meeting with Trump specifically, and had at least two recent visits to Trump Tower, further confirming Trump’s interest in Musk
- Musk has said positive things about being able to work with Trump towards energy technology goals and manufacturing in the U.S. (which would include SpaceX)
- Trump has recently met with historian David Brinkley who specifically cited Trump’s interest in President John F. Kennedy’s famous Moon speech and a mission to the Moon, signaling Trump’s interest in a “big” space goal
- Trump’s NASA transition team includes several pro-commercial spaceflight faces, SpaceX fans included
- Trump is interested in cutting discretionary spending, and commercial-government spaceflight partnerships would be an option in line with that path, especially using SpaceX’s lower cost rocket technology
- Musk’s timeline for SpaceX’s future missions to Mars means they could potentially occur during Trump’s presidency, notably close to reelection campaign season
That last one could be what could pull the lever if the decision came down to the Moon people vs. the Mars people.
It’s no secret that congressional space policy leadership favors the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars, and that itself has significant weight; however, SpaceX is already on the way to sending its Red Dragon capsule to Mars, 2018/2020 being the current launch goal, and redirecting NASA once again to focus instead on the Moon would likely take more time (and money) to do, leaving SpaceX to bask in red planet glory first during reelection season.
— Joel Achenbach (@JoelAchenbach) January 19, 2017
The political picture kind of paints itself, really. The presidential campaign is underway and Trump’s Moon mission, a place the public would possibly see as “been there done that”, is running over budget and likely not even happened yet. Meanwhile, Elon Musk and his SpaceX team have launched their Falcon Heavy cargo, possibly preparing for a second launch, and have either already landed on Mars or about to.
That’s not a pretty picture if you’re President Donald Trump arguing the case for how you’re making America great again.
It’s possible that Trump is really only interested in speaking with Elon Musk about the future of electric cars (maybe that subsidy situation that keeps getting harped on by certain groups on the right?) and/or the unique startup-to-success stories of Elon’s companies, but it would make just as much sense for him to be interested in a Mars mission to unite the country under his leadership. The work is already being done so in a way, Trump just needs to make a few of his famous “deals” to help things along to be able to plant his name on it.
In that light, a journey to Mars certainly looks like it could unfortunately just be a political decision rather than a grandiose vision thing for the President. After all, Trump hasn’t seemed very interested in our space program overall, choosing to focus on economic matters and non-NASA related national security. However, would it really be a bad thing for him to pursue a Mars mission for purely political motivations? Done right, it’s a win-win for everyone: Trump gets his political boost, humanity gets to celebrate the official beginning of becoming a multiplanetary species via the world of “new space”.
Only time will tell, and hopefully we will have more answers rather than questions in the immediate future.