NASA’s pivot toward Earth is already making life a little easier


NASA may soon be staring into the abyss as the United States’ space agency gets slated for the axe. On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed a funding plan that would cut nearly three-quarters of NASA’s budget. The cuts would cut 10 percent from the agency’s budget for maintaining assets on the International Space Station, 30 percent from IT programs, and more than 40 percent from aeronautics. Nearly all of NASA’s satellite programs — including the Kepler mission that helps discover alien planets — would also be cut.

How will NASA survive if it isn’t getting such a prominent role in exploration? The answer may lie in that question’s larger analysis. According to NASA Chief Technology Officer Vikram S. Chaudhary, the space agency’s 2030 framework should be structured around Earth.

“The agency has laid out a pathway towards our third space frontier — our home on Earth,” he said in a statement about the program. “With a far fewer size and scope of program, and with the mandate to conduct exceptional research missions with budgets below $100 million per project, the Planetary Infrastructure platform enables a more flexible, agile approach to planetary exploration.”

He noted that the proposal would “build upon NASA’s decades of achievements in discovery, technology demonstration, and small-scale space development,” to “take our solar system to new heights and help us explore the furthest reaches of our solar system.”

As part of the plan, NASA will get $1.8 billion from 2020 to 2021, even as budgets are cut. Currently, NASA has various Earth-focused programs, such as the Kepler mission. The observatory has already found about 200 planets outside our solar system.

The other part of NASA’s plan looks inward.

“I firmly believe that our planetary exploration can grow by building on our significant achievements and current capabilities. It needs to utilize the time-tested, innovative approaches that have already helped wean people off fossil fuels and human migration of Earth into space,” Chaudhary said.

According to NASA, this proposal is not just new, but a response to human technology’s recent strides on Earth.

“Although we have seen incredible technological advances in human technology over the past century, these advancements have almost no measurable impact on the Earth’s most vital resources and systems such as air, water, food, energy, environment, soil, and water resources. The Planetary Infrastructure framework will enable the transformation of our exploration programs to empower sustainably, sustainably, and sustainably,” NASA said in a statement.

Read the full story at Ars Technica.


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