by Katelynn Fleming
Shortly after arriving in office, the Trump administration has been hinting at desires to put Americans back on the moon. At the first meeting of the newly revived National Space Committee on October 5, Chair and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made an official statement on the Trump administration’s goal to revisit the surface of the moon and build a base there before proceeding to Mars. Many people are confused by the administration’s vague explanation as to the purpose of repeating the moon landing. Drew student Cameron Donnelly (’21) voiced a similar concern when she responded, “What’s the point? We’ve already been there.” While it is true that there is still much to learn from the moon, the administration’s plan lacks the pointed purpose that the previous multibillion dollar missions have displayed.
The administration does seem to have some strategy in mind. The Orlando Sentinel reported the Trump administration claims the National Space Committee will focus its initiatives on space exploration, but also “would need to create a more robust national security response to advancements made by Russia and China,” including jamming and hacking technology to cripple intelligence satellites and communication technology. In addition, in the past seven years, the U.S. has paid Russia to fly American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The administration also looks to partner with industry leaders such as Boeing and SpaceX to ferry crews to the ISS. According to Space.com, NASA hopes to turn all crew ferry flights over to Boeing and SpaceX by the end of 2018. Pence claims that with this new direction “America will lead in space once again.”
Some debate the usefulness of sending astronauts to the moon. NASA already has plans “to go to the moon, just not to land on it,” according to Slate. In order to go to Mars, NASA plans to launch a waystation into low moon orbit. However, the costs of going onto the surface of the moon and building, maintaining and powering a station have been considered too high according to Slate. A Drew community member who wished to remain anonymous also mentioned there is the bang-for-your-buck concept to consider, since unmanned missions can often be equally effective and simultaneously less expensive. Will it be more cost effective and advantageous to build a base on the moon or to utilize those funds in another aspect of exploration?
While space travel is an exciting project and placing attention and funding back into the space program is a thrilling prospect for many, it seems that the lack of specified purpose is a significant barrier in the way of popular support and productivity.