What’s the post-election outlook for NASA and planetary exploration?

White HomePresident-elect Joe Biden’s house coverage (or lack thereof) has been thought of in a lot of shops, together with a current episode of our podcast, the Space Policy Edition. Broadly, nonetheless, we are able to make some knowledgeable guesses:The 2024 lunar touchdown aim will likely be pushed again and doubtlessly reconsidered all togetherNASA’s Earth Science division will likely be the precedence science division at the house company, and probably see its funds start to develop againMajor packages, similar to the SLS, Orion, Commercial Crew, and the ISS, will continueMoon-to-Mars will stay the nation’s human spaceflight targets, although probably through a revised pathwayThe recently-announced NASA transition staff for the incoming administration, led by Dr. Ellen Stofan, who beforehand served as NASA’s Chief Scientist, provides extra proof that the administration will contemplate NASA via a scientific lens.We mustn’t low cost how a lot is left unknown, nonetheless. The transition staff’s job is to offer perception into the state of the house company, figuring out troubled packages and areas of alternative for the new administration. They won’t set coverage. The subsequent NASA Administrator—not Jim Bridenstine, who introduced his intention to step down beneath a Biden administration—is but to be put ahead, a lot much less permitted by the Senate. Also an open query is the destiny of the National Space Council, which has been traditionally productive beneath the Trump Administration due to the enthusiastic engagement of Vice-President Pence, who serves as chair. So far, the incoming administration has given no indication as as to if it’s going to proceed the council.Implications for The Planetary Society’s three core enterprisesNASA has skilled annual budgetary development since 2014, permitting the company to keep away from making arduous decisions about which packages to protect and which packages to finish. That period is most probably over starting in 2021, or not less than will develop into far more difficult.In the occasion that Republicans retain management of the Senate, there will likely be a renewed push for fiscal restraint and home spending cuts, significantly after the authorities’s monumental expenditures this yr in response to the coronavirus pandemic. And whereas nobody in the Biden administration or the subsequent congress is in opposition to planetary exploration, the search for life, or planetary protection, few have made these a excessive precedence, politically-speaking. This is just not uncommon. But it turns into salient in the context of restricted budgets.NASA’s funds tends to comply with total traits. If total spending continues to extend, NASA typically will increase as effectively. If the total budgetary pie shrinks, so does NASA’s slice. If this happens, the Biden administration will probably prioritize areas of NASA that intersect with its nationwide coverage targets: local weather change, the economic system, and training. The problem is on advocates to make sure that planetary exploration, the search for life, and planetary protection is strongly thought of in gentle of those priorities. We consider the case for these is kind of sturdy, and it is a case The Planetary Society intends to make in the coming months.

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