Donald Trump's focus is lot a deeper into the cosmos than one might expect, and that could mean big things in the coming years at NASA.
Donald Trump and Mars are a match made in heaven. The newly sworn in president is reportedly a big fan of sending a manned mission to the Red Planet, and there’s a good chance Trump will be making a major shift soon at NASA, turning its focus away from climate change and more intensely onto a Mars mission.
As we have reported, Trump reportedly has become closer with SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who is also very keen on going to Mars and even building a colony there, and there’s been speculation of a public-private partnership between Musk and the U.S. government on the project. Trump has also sat down with historian Douglas Brinkley about the Apollo program and its groundbreaking missions to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s, so perhaps even a lunar landing is in our near future.
The space industry, and Elon Musk in particular, has certainly come around on Trump. Musk reportedly said that Trump was “not the right guy” before the election, but it appears the two have since patched their differences. And considering that Trump now controls the U.S. government that supplies SpaceX with its supply projects, that’s not too surprising perhaps.
Musk has been named to Trump’s team of business advisers and has twice visited Trump Tower since his election. It could mean lucrative contracts for Musk, not just with SpaceX but also with his other company, Tesla. In fact, there have been suggestions that Musk and his companies could profit more under Trump than under Obama.
It’s definitely a bit of a strange match. Trump is diametrically opposed to any efforts to fight climate change, declaring the widely held scientific theory as a hoax invented by the Chinese, while much of the reason Musk created Tesla was to battle against the huge amount of emissions produced by combustion engines in conventional cars. In addition, Trump has taken a strong anti-immigrant stance, while Musk immigrated to the United States from South Africa by way of Canada.
However, they both share a friend in billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel, who serves as an adviser to Trump. They both agree about strengthening U.S. manufacturing and job growth, so they have some important things in common beyond a business relationship. It helps that Musk builds his technology here in the United States, something that Trump has demanded the companies do instead of outsourcing overseas.
“The President-elect has a strong emphasis on U.S. manufacturing and so do we. We are building the biggest factory in the world right here, creating U.S. jobs,” Musk said during a Q&A session at the Gigafactory, according to an investor note from Morgan Stanley as reported by CNN.
Musk suggested that “surprising things” were coming from the administration. In any case, it certainly bodes well in the push for Mars, which could happen as soon as 2024.
Last year at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress in Mexico, Musk outlined the SpaceX plan to put a colony on Mars. It would involve new technology like reusable rockets, carbon fiber fuel tanks and incredibly powerful engines that could lead to spaceships capable of carrying more than a hundred passengers to Mars, and then coming back home to pick up more.
It’s an ambitious plan, but with the president of the United States backing him, it could get the funding it needs for a strong push next decade.