The Planetary Society released its official recommendations for NASA and the Trump Administration in January of 2017, prior to the transition. While a copy of this report was distributed to the transition team, we wanted to share it with our members and the broader public in order to continue the ongoing discussion regarding NASA's priorities during this Administration.
You can download the entire report and read it yourself, but overall, we provided five recommendations:
- Maintain the exploration of Mars as the organizing principle for NASA's human spaceflight program
- Direct NASA to plan an executable, affordable path for sending humans to Mars orbit by 2033
- Expand NASA's highly successful science portfolio
- Continue to grow and support the commercial space industry
- Initiate annual five percent increases to NASA’s budget for five years
These recommendations work together to provide critical stability for the nation's space program during a period of significant transition. Major programs in both human spaceflight (SLS, Orion, and Commercial Crew) and science (James Webb Space Telescope, Mars 2020, Europa Clipper) have not yet borne fruit, and steady funding and clear programmatic direction will help ensure that these programs stay on track and on budget.
NASA should maintain its historic focus on Mars, though there are near-term opportunities at the Moon. The orbit-first plan highlighted by The Planetary Society in 2015 provides a proof-of-concept for missions in cis-lunar space that will test hardware, human endurance, and operations needed for Mars. Operating in cis-lunar space could allow to NASA to provide a supportive role for true commercial endeavors on the lunar surface while maintaining focus on sending humans to Mars.
There are number of exciting science missions in development that will push the limits of technology and exploration. These include the James Webb Space Telescope, the Mars 2020 rover, Solar Probe Plus, and the Europa Multi-Flyby Mission. The Earth Science Division provides unique data on our home planet. But science divisions have struggled to properly prepare for the next generation of missions, and growth is needed to rebuild these programs—particularly the Planetary Science Division. We recommend that NASA spend at least 30% of its budget on science.
The nation has asked much of NASA, and we must provide the resources necessary for success. The existing NASA portfolio is tightly constrained and the budget must grow if NASA is to reach its goals in science, human exploration, and commercial development. As the National Academies pointed out in a recent report, without budgetary growth that at least matches inflation, NASA will not be able to continue the International Space Station and build a successful exploration program. NASA's existing fleet of science missions are aging and in need of replacement. The Planetary Society will never shirk from our responsibility to advocate for the budgets that enable NASA to achieve its goals.