Earth Scientists IN PANIC

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Trump names two key figures to have the most significant impact on NASA's future — the new NASA administrator and the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy — have not been announced.

To put that in scientific terms, all the rumor and discussion swirling around the scientific community about NASA's future under a Trump presidency is noise, "not signal," says NASA's new leader of Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen.

Zurbuchen, who took over back in October also said to his staff, "You are leaders in your community, please be a source of signal, not a source of noise," just three weeks ago (December 12, 2016), during the annual Earth Science Town Hall meeting at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.

NASA Official Refuses to Panic Over Trump Transition

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Many fear serious cuts to NASA's earth science programs. While top official claims these are only speculation.

NASA official 1Thomas Zurbuchen took over NASA Science Mission in October & tells scientists,
not to worry 
and basically just hang together and "it's all just noise".

But Is It all "JUST NOISE"?

Election is over now. Focus in Washington is now going to legislation and policy making (by Republican controlled Senate & Congress)

Look for conversations between Trump and Congress likely about immigration, health care, the economy and other similarly high-profile issues.

DOES U.S. FUTURE DEPEND ON SPACE PROGRAMS?

We know our country's future path in space is also being discussed, even now! — and get ready for real spirited debates on the "Who? - What? - When?" and "HOW MUCH?" it will cost.

One of the hottest topics will likely be the direction of NASA's human-spaceflight program, said Brian Weeden, a technical adviser for the non-profit Secure World Foundation. 

In his first term, President Barack Obama canceled George W. Bush's moon-oriented Constellation program and instructed NASA to get astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid by 2025, then on to the vicinity of Mars by the mid-2030s.

To meet the first part of that directive, NASA devised the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which will pluck a boulder off a near-Earth asteroid using a robotic probe. This spacecraft will then haul the boulder to lunar orbit, where it will be visited by astronauts.

But ARM has its share of detractors, and some of them occupy positions of power on Capitol Hill. For example, earlier this year, the House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee proposed denying funding to the mission.

"The Committee believes that neither a robotic nor a crewed mission to an asteroid appreciably contribute[s] to the overarching mission to Mars," committee members wrote in a report. "Instead, NASA is encouraged to develop plans to return to the moon to test capabilities that will be needed for Mars, including habitation modules, lunar prospecting and landing and ascent vehicles."

This asteroid-versus-moon argument isn't likely to end anytime soon" says Weeden, "especially since most of the international human-spaceflight community prefers the lunar option".

And that brings up another issue, he added: Just how much international cooperation will there be on NASA's envisioned journey to Mars and other big projects? Who will the partners be? Could China be involved, even though U.S. law currently prohibits NASA from working with China to any significant degree?

"That's a very big civil-space public policy question that the next administration will most definitely be tackling," Weeden said last week during a presentation with NASA's Future In-Space Operations working group. [5 Manned Mission to Mars Ideas] 

NASA Mars pic

Also potentially on the docket, he said, will be the further mapping out of NASA's relationship with the private sector.

Bush & Obama's NASA PATH & PRIVATE SECTORS!

The George W. Bush and Obama administrations set NASA on a path that hands over many activities in low-Earth orbit (LEO) to private companies, theoretically freeing up the space agency to focus on more ambitious efforts, like getting people to Mars. For example, SpaceX and Orbital ATK currently fly robotic cargo missions to the International Space Station for NASA, and SpaceX and Boeing should start flying American astronauts to and from the orbiting lab in a year or two.

"That raises a bigger question about, Are there activities NASA has historically done that are perhaps better suited for the private sector to do?" Weeden said. "If so, how do you make that transition, and what does that mean for the future of NASA and NASA's workforce, and how NASA is organized?"

CONSTELLATION CANCELATION -

As the cancellation of Constellation and the push to scrap ARM show, NASA is often pulled this way and that by the president and Congress — not an ideal situation for an agency that's trying to plan out a crewed Mars mission and other activities 20 or 30 years in the future. So the next administration may investigate ways to ensure more policy stability for NASA, Weeden said.

The NASA administrator is currently nominated by, and serves at the pleasure of, the president. Some people have suggested that the NASA chief should instead be appointed by a panel, and/or serve a fixed term. Such changes would help shield the agency from partisan politics, the idea goes.

There are other important space-policy questions that must be dealt with at some point, Weeden said. For example, which federal agency (or agencies) should regulate the nascent asteroid-mining industry and other near-future space activities, such as private space stations and commercial moon outposts? Should the United States be in charge of cleaning up space junk, or should an international coalition lead this effort?

National Security Realm -

Much of the United States' military might is based on the nation's dominance in space; for example, sharp-eyed spy satellites often give American warfighters a clearer view of the battlefield than their adversaries can get.

But other countries are increasingly contesting this dominance by developing their own advanced spacecraft and, in some cases, anti-satellite capabilities, experts have said.

"There's much more of a case that in future conflicts, there's probably going to be a space element of the conflict," Weeden said.

U.S. Military Assessing Deals to Solve Deal

So the U.S. military is assessing how best to deal with this developing situation, he added.

"There's a discussion about, should the U.S. develop new offensive counterspace capabilities of its own, in part to deter adversaries, or perhaps to counter their own capabilities?" Weeden said. "And related to that: How might the U.S. deter potential adversaries such as Russia and China from kinetic attacks on space [assets] in a future conflict? And then, how best to leverage commercial industries and allies in that mix of resilience and assurance?"

President-elect Trump and Congress prepare for head-to-head deals over space: Public/Private/Government - Who gets the deal? (and who pays).

House and Senate in total Republican control - "What do you think will happen next?"

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