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Detailed comments by former congressman Robert Walker, who is advising the Trump transition team on space policy, yesterday provided some further hints at what the space policy will be during a Trump administration.
Walker said that there is an intent that the National Space Council be re-instituted so as to guide all space activities. civilian, military, and commercial. Walker went on to say that the Trump team is looking for a space policy that is “disruptive, resilient, and enduring”.
For one thing, Walker said that they are looking for a much longer life for the ISS – and that it will need to be refurbished and upgraded. He speculated that it would need to be handed over to an organization or consortium eventually. They are also looking for opportunities to have the commercial sector backfill for NASA so that NASA can focus on deep space exploration. Walker was very clear on this point noting that there was an awareness of many government programs that “take a decade to do with technology that ends up being out of date”.
…Walker was asked several times about SLS/Orion – in the context of Trump’s recent comments about Boeing and Air Force One. Walker did not answer the questions specifically but went into a broader generalization that Trump is not a politician but rather that he is a deal maker. He also thought that Trump’s funding of an ice rink in New York a few years back was a good example of what kind of president he’d be. Walker went on to say that Vice President-elect Pence would be the de-facto “prime minister” and run the government while Donald Trump went out to cut deals.
The issue of Earth science eventually came up. Walker said that the Trump administration is not looking to cancel NASA climate science but rather that they wanted to transfer all of it to other agencies who might have greater expertise. Earth centric research would be transferred so as to allow NASA to focus on space exploration.
It remains unclear whether SLS/Orion will survive a Trump administration. I suspect that at this point they themselves don’t know. They intend to shift climate research from NASA to NOAA, cutting some of that funding as they do so while also changing the personnel that run the research (thus cleaning house). They also probably want to shift NASA’s publicly-stated deep space goals back to the Moon, but this will simply be the empty rhetoric of politicians. More important is the suggestion that they want to extend the life of ISS. Such an action will also require an extension of the commercial crew/cargo contracts, which will also help continue to fuel the new space industry.