Billionaire Elon Musk isn’t happy with a bill President Donald Trump signed to fund NASA’s manned mission to Mars.
“This bill changes almost nothing about what NASA is doing,” tweeted Elon Musk, a billionaire who owns the rocket company SpaceX .
“Existing programs stay in place and there is no added funding for Mars.”
The bill accelerates NASA’s plans to put U.S. astronauts in lunar orbit in 2019. It also requires NASA to send a crewed mission to Mars in 16 years. Musk has his own private rocket company, which plans to send missions to Mars in the near future.
Musk has his own plans to send humans to Mars, but sees Trump’s focus on sending astronauts back to the moon as a threat to plans on exploring the Red Planet. Musk also believes the 16-year timeline is too long.
“Musk is correct,” Dr. Robert Zubrin, who helped design plans for NASA’s manned mission to Mars, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “While the bill is unobjectionable, it changes almost nothing. It’s just the GOP version of business as usual.”
“NASA’s human spaceflight program needs a clear and rational destination, forcibly backed by a presidential imperative and commitment requiring and supporting its achievement within his administration’s time in office,” said Zubrin, who wrote the book “The Case For Mars.”
“If Trump want’s NASA’s human spaceflight program to accomplish anything on his watch, he needs to choose a destination, set a schedule, and muster the funding to get the job done,” Zubrin said.
Trump vowed to “unlock the mysteries of space” in his inaugural address, and even met with Musk after the election. Vice President Mike Pence met with Apollo 11 astronaut and Mars mission advocate Buzz Aldrin in early March to talk about the future of the U.S. space program.
“Setting a ‘visionary’ goal outside of his administration’s possible terms of office, as did Bush (Moon by 2019) or Obama (Mars by 2033) is so much make-believe,” Zubrin said. “If Trump wants to make America’s space program great again, he needs to do it while he is at the wheel.”
NASA intends to send astronauts to orbit the moon in 2018 at the apparent request of Trump, potentially saving taxpayers $10 billion dollars, according to statements Zubrin previously made to the press.
NASA previously planned to send an unmanned rocket with an Orion capsule to orbit the Moon, but will now be a manned mission slated for late 2018. One Trump adviser told The Washington Post adding astronauts is intended to be “a clear signal” to the Chinese that the U.S. will retain its dominance in space.
The U.S. is currently better prepared to visit Mars than it was to visit the moon in the 1960s, according to a study by NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The total cost of current plans to send Americans to Mars comes out to roughly $35 billion spent by 2025 to arrive in 2030.
Trump’s Mars and lunar missions will require the giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Former President Barack Obama tried for years to eliminate the SLS, but Congress rescued the rocket. Obama took money from space exploration programs to fund earth science programs.