During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump mentioned NASA little. His most illuminating remark on the subject was the nonanswer he gave a 10-year-old who asked for his position on the space agency.
“You know, in the old days, it was great. Right now, we have bigger problems — you understand that? We’ve got to fix our potholes. You know, we don’t exactly have a lot of money,” Trump said. He added, “Space is terrific.”
In the more than two months since his election, the president-elect’s position hasn’t become much clearer. But historian Douglas Brinkley, who discussed the Apollo program with, says that could change as soon as Friday.
Trump won’t be specific about his space plans in his inaugural address, Brinkley told the Washington Post, but “he might say something vague and morale-building about the moonshot.” Brinkley added that Trump sees value in a space mission beyond the scientific. In their conversation, Trump commended the Apollo program for uniting the country and capturing “the spirit of the American people,” Brinkley said.
Just where Trump will want to travel in the solar system remains a mystery. The Post says he has discussed Mars with Elon Musk, who has a plan to colonize the red planet. And Trump has been pushed by Peter Thiel, a friend and business associate of Musk’s, to turn toward commercial space companies.
But there could be another voice in Trump’s ear whispering about space exploration — Newt Gingrich. The failed presidential candidate and Trump ally made headlines in 2012 when, during one of his bids to win the GOP’s nomination, he promised a completed moon colony by 2020. It was met with ridicule — even mild-mannered Mitt made fun of him — because of its ambition and the out-of-this-world price tag it would command.
And that brings us back to Trump and his potential skyward ambitions. Would a Republican Party really sign off on the massive expenditure required to go to space in the face mounting national debt? As long as it’s another Republican’s idea, the answer is yes.