Donald Trump

Trump Promises Manned Moon Base, Mission to Mars During Second Term

The Trump administration has expanded a bipartisan drive to commercialize more of NASA's space operations.

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Following a rather mixed record on terrestrial policy accomplishments during his first term, President Donald Trump is making his off-planet plans a part of his reelection pitch.

On Sunday, the Trump campaign released a 49-point "Fighting for You!" second-term agenda. Under the document's Innovating for the Future section, Trump is promising to "Launch Space Force, Establish Permanent Manned Presence on The Moon and Send the First Manned Mission to Mars."

There are no further details contained in the document released Sunday. The president will reportedly elaborate Thursday in his Republican National Convention acceptance speech and in "policy-focused speeches on the campaign trail."

Under the Trump administration, NASA has continued and expanded past administrations' partnerships with commercial space companies to carry cargo and crew into orbit and beyond.

The most recent example of this is NASA's successful Crew Dragon mission, in which the agency contracted with SpaceX, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, to carry two American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). That mission launched in late May and the astronauts returned safely earlier this month.

The Crew Dragon mission was the first time American astronauts were launched into space from American soil since 2011, when the Space Shuttle program was mothballed.

The mission was also noteworthy because NASA used a "firm-fixed-price" contract with SpaceX to get the job done. Under this model, the government pays private contractors a fixed price for a particular service; in the Crew Dragon case, NASA paid SpaceX $2.6 billion to design and then launch a crew transportation system.

That's at odds with the old "cost-plus" model NASA long relied on. This involved the agency telling contractors exactly what they wanted, then paying them for the costs of development, plus a fee. Ars Technica's Eric Berger explained in a May 2020 article how this was a recipe for cost overruns.

"If a vehicle ran five years late and doubled its original budget, NASA was on the hook for cost overruns. This tended to not encourage on-time delivery, but eventually the government got what it wanted," Berger wrote.

The firm-fixed-price model shifts the risk of cost overruns from taxpayers to private companies. Companies like SpaceX have to complete projects with less money and in less time than other NASA projects that still rely on the "cost-plus" model.

NASA's shift toward using firm-fixed contracts with commercial operators began under the George W. Bush administration and was later expanded by President Barack Obama. The initial idea was to farm out less complicated ISS resupply missions to private contractors so that NASA could focus on returning to the Moon, and later, make the trip to Mars.

The Trump administration is taking this idea even further.

In March, NASA announced it had signed a firm-fixed-price contract with SpaceX to deliver supplies to its planned Lunar Gateway space station, which will orbit the Moon.

In April 2020, NASA announced that it had signed $967 million worth of firm-fixed-price contracts with three commercial space operators—SpaceX, Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, and Dynetics—to develop human landing systems for the Artemis project, which aims to return humans to the moon by 2024.

"With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a press release.

Bridenstine, in a June tweet, suggested that commercial contractors could be used even for deep space missions.

To be clear, the turn to commercial space is hardly the stuff of libertarian futurist fantasies; it still involves government money paying private contractors to fulfill the needs of the government's space agency. But the success of NASA's commercial approach demonstrates what's possible when the government reduces, however marginally, its control of space flight.

It's possible we'll see even more of that in a second Trump term. Given the bipartisan history of NASA's turn to commercial spaceflight, it's also possible we'll get more of it under President Joe Biden as well.

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  2. No mention of balanced budgets or debt reduction? Finally, an honest politician!

    1. The NASA budget for 2020 is 0.47% of the overall federal budget.
      22.629 billion out of 4.79 trillion. If you include the 2 trillion in COVID lockdown bailouts, it’s 0.33%.

      1. Have to start somewhere. NASA and public tv/radio seem as good a place as any.

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  3. The mission was also noteworthy because NASA used a “firm-fixed-price” contract…

    President Trump renegotiated terms with outer space itself… AND WON.

    1. If the president gets a second term, I promise to come up with a whole slew of Chuck Norrisesque memes of Trump performing renegotiating feats of epic proportion.

      1. That’s reason enough not to vote for him right there.

      2. That just might get me to vote for him.

      3. Donald Trump told Father Time he could have either death or taxes, otherwise he’d get rid of both.
        Father Time chose death

    2. He only wins if Mexico pays for it.

  4. Doesn’t matter.
    The space force will fail to protect us from the election eve asteroid, and we will all die, but it will still be recorded as COVID deaths by the last living federal bureaucrat.

  5. Mars, bitches!

  6. SPACE FOOOOOOOOOOOORCE!

    1. FUCK YEAH!

  7. I am disappointed he hasn’t promised to burn a giant American flag onto the Moon’s surface.

    1. After the massive sweep of the electoral college, the democrats will give ol’ Joe the amendment 25 pink slip, and burn BLM into the moon in 500 foot letters.

      1. 500 foot tall letters would appear to be approximately 1/11,400ths the apparent diameter of the moon from earth. You would still need a telescope to see them. Better to use 500 kilometer tall letters.

        Go big or go home.

        1. Great not only are we going to be commies in a year but now we have to switch over to the metric system.

        2. Better to use 500 kilometer tall letters.

          Kilometer? Sounds un-American.

          1. 500 mile tall letters would be too big.

        3. Don’t you remember that the democrats protect the working class from excessive government spending?

    2. A giant TRUMP COLA logo!

      1. .0000000000001/10

      2. Further proof the left can’t meme

        1. I don’t represent “the left” in any way. Must I explain that my comment is a reference to the Robert A. Heinlein novella, “The Man Who Sold the Moon”, and, by the way, that the reference could be taken as complimentary to Trump, since the protagonist of the story is a business tycoon who is a master of the deal.

          1. You are gonna break Jesse’s brain. He only has room for “us,” and “not us.”

            1. When you behave like leftists, regurgitate leftist arguments, and constantly suck up to leftists… you might appear to be leftists

              1. Or you might appear that way because you are a libertarian responding to assertions and half truths posted by conservative-leaning commenters.

      3. I got the reference. Nice.

        (Harriman, right?)

    3. Jesus Christ, that’s ingenious!

    4. I’m not sure even Trump can get the Republicans in favor of flag burning.

  8. Will the moon base have giant friggin’ laser beams?

  9. Can we just deport every left winger to Mars now please?

  10. she thinks she missed the train to mars.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvq4LdngkD4

  11. I look forward to the grand opening of the Trump Interplanetary Hotel and Casino, overlooking the Sea of Tranquility.

    1. love it.

    2. It’s the biggest! The best!

  12. Forget the moon or mars, why doesn’t Trump sell his company the ISS and turn it into the first space hotel. Trump in orbit. Space X could fly people with too much money to the station for a big fee. Trump could charge an exorbitant nightly rate. NASA could take the money from the sale and put it to good use on unmanned missions and space telescopes. A win-win.

    1. This^.

      The only way manned spaceflight makes money is through tourism and the best use of space funding is unmanned missions and space telescopes.

      I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

  13. I work in the space business around JSC and I’ve noticed a difference in how it seems things might actually get done. As opposed to decades of vaporware and vaporized billions.

    I never used to take anything seriously. But now, it seems like companies are stepping up and they know NASA is serious about paying them for a job and that’s it. And, those companies retain ownership of their stuff and can do anything they want with them outside of their NASA obligations.

  14. About time, we need to give Michel Collins a chance to touch the moon. (he is the guy who flew the space capsule while Lance Armstrong and buzz aldrin walked on the moon

    1. Ah, yes, world famous pioneering astronaut Lance Armstrong. Are you sure you don’t you mean Buzz Lightyear?

      1. It really took some serious balls to work in the space program back then.

        1. Nothing says “classy” like punching a cancer survivor below the belt.

  15. The next step would be to get NASA out of the loop for building space stations orbiting the moon, or moon colonies, or Mars colonies. Perhaps set up the FAA framework to support private space colonization, and get out of the way.

  16. If Trump was serious he would’ve promised Womanned-of-color mission to Mars.

  17. Trump is literally “promising the moon” if re-elected.

    1. And unless you get really narrow about your statement, he’s not even the first President to do so.

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  21. At least he’s talking about giving NASA some inspiring goals, after 8 years of neglect and hoping to land on asteroids someday under Obama.

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