Trump to switch NASA's focus from climate change to space exploration

The agency's budget could be redirected towards returning to the moon...

Trump to switch NASA's focus from climate change to space exploration

Picture by Yui Mok PA Archive/PA Images

Considering he has called climate change a "hoax", US President-elect Donald Trump was always unlikely to support NASA's efforts to monitor how the Earth's environment is shifting.

In fact, his advisor on space policy has now revealed that he will slash the budget for monitoring climate change, focusing instead on sending humans to the edge of the solar system by the end of the century and possibly back to the moon.

Bob Walker, who previously chaired President George W Bush's Commission on the Future of the US Aerospace Industry, told the Telegraph that NASA has been reduced to "a logistics agency concentrating on space station resupply and politically correct environmental monitoring."

He said of Trump's plans:

"We would start by having a stretch goal of exploring the entire solar system by the end of the century.

"You stretch your technology experts and create technologies that wouldn't otherwise be needed. I think aspirational goals are a good thing. Fifty years ago it was the ability to go to the moon."

Walker is in favour of a new moon mission, as is Trump ally Newt Gingrich.

Buzz Aldrin has also backed Trump to get America to Mars, saying:

"It's time for us to join international partners y helping them do what we did. Refueling of the landers on the surface of the moon is very important so we will know how to do that at Mars, and that will give us great savings. Mars is the objective and we have to reduce some of the cost."

To fund such exploration, it is expected that operations in low-Earth orbit, such as the International Space Station, will be handed over to the private sector.

Funding in NASA's Earth Science Division increased 50% under President Obama, with it receiving $1.92 billion in funding this year.  Conversely, he proposed cutting support for deep space exploration by $840m next year.

Bush's Constellation programme, which would have sent man back to the moon in the 2020s, was also cancelled under Obama.

NASA's science administrator Thomas Zurbuchen has defended the Earth Science Division, saying:

"NASA's work on Earth science is making a difference in people's lives all around the world every day. Earth science helps save lives."