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Donald Trump has signed a bill authorizing $19.5 billion for NASA for the next budget year. Wow, that’s a ton of money! How awesome! “For almost six decades, NASA’s work has inspired millions and millions of Americans to imagine distant worlds and a better future right here on earth,” Trump said. “I’m delighted to sign this bill. It’s been a long time since a bill like this has been signed, reaffirming our commitment to the core mission of NASA: human space exploration, space science and technology.”
Maybe Trump really is interested in science after all, and isn’t just a habitual liar sexual predator Russian puppet. This is something that people of all political backgrounds can approve of, right?
Okay, let’s take a few steps back here. First of all, this is pretty much exactly the same budget NASA got last year, and so if you account for inflation, it’s a wee bit less.
Second of all, Congress critters like Ted Cruz are happily slapping Trump’s back about this, whereas for the past eight years they’ve been doing nothing but getting in the way of any attempt at improving NASA’s budget. They’re only doing it now because to the untrained eye, it makes Trump look good.
Well, actually, there’s one other reason they’re doing it now: because now, funding NASA doesn’t include funding climate research. That’s right: this new budget has removed any directive for NASA to study the Earth’s climate. As a reminder, climate change is possibly the greatest threat humanity is currently facing. Remember, Trump said that NASA inspires Americans to imagine “a better future right here on earth,” so it’s pretty sad that he’s taking away the possibility of any future on earth.
You may think that’s not a big deal, because we also have NOAA, which exclusively studies the Earth’s oceanographic and atmospheric health. It’s too bad, then, that they are facing a 17% budget reduction thanks to Trump.
Also there’s the fact that studying the Earth’s climate is how NASA can better understand the climate of other planets. We’re not on Mars yet, so a lot of what we know has to be informed by the data we can collect right here.
Here’s another issue with Trump’s new budget: it directs NASA to pursue human travel to Mars. Not just studying Mars, but sending people there. There’s a lot of debate in the scientific community as to whether there’s any real benefit to sending people to Mars rather than developing better robotics that can learn more about the planet without putting human lives at risk. Yes, eventually we may need to move humans to other planets, especially if we destroy this one by ignoring global warming. But right now, it’s far easier and more informative to use robots.
So yeah, I’m sorry if you were counting on this news to give you hope that Trump isn’t the absolute worst. Actually, I’m not sorry. You need to know he’s the worst. Keep fighting.
The biggest reason we better take care of the Earth is that it is our home and their probably isn’t another ready made habitable planet that we could get to right now within a human lifetime. Earth is the only planet that we know of where we won’t die instantly without technology. None of the other worlds in our solar system even have a breathable atmosphere. Venus and Mars may have both been much more habitable in the distant past, but a person standing on Venus would be simultaneously crushed and melted, and Mars is cold and barely even has an atmosphere. Most of the potentially habitable world circling nearby stars, probably are not habitable either. Even if some of them have life on them, it could have developed to live in conditions that would kill life on Earth, and it could have done things to their planet that make it habitable for life that evolved there, but would kill us instantly for all we know.
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