If President Donald Trump has had one consistent message about space exploration both during his campaign and presidency, it’s that America is doing badly in space. A year ago during a campaign in Daytona Beach, Florida, Trump said, “Look what’s happened with our entire history of space and leadership. Look what’s happening, people. We’re like a third-world country. .”
As Vice President Mike Pence has assumed duties on space policy, he has been instrumental in touring NASA and Air Force facilities around the country. But during these visits, she repeated this Debbie Downer message. Speaking Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center, Pence said that under the Trump administration, the United States will lead in the field “again” no less than eight times.
The message here is that America has fallen backwards in space—and it needs strong leadership to get back on its feet. While there are certainly serious problems with US space policy—starting with the lack of a clear direction for human spaceflight and funding to support those goals—no other country can come close to the United States in space. Also, because of the long lead times assigned to wind development, almost every “success” that characterizes American leadership in the space over the next 3.5 years will have begun long before President Trump takes office.
That said, here’s a list of how America already leads in the field.
The most powerful rockets
With the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the world’s most powerful rocket is now the Delta IV Heavy, manufactured and flown by Colorado-based United Launch Alliance. It can heft 28.8 tons to low Earth orbit. Almost everything about the rocket, from its payload fairing to engines, is American made. Since its first flight in 2003, the Delta IV Heavy has flown nine successful missions without a single incident. The most powerful booster in the world is China’s Long March 5 rocket, with a capacity of 25 tons to low Earth orbit. He has flown just twice: once successfully and once with a catastrophic failure.
Soon, perhaps by the end of this year, California-based SpaceX will launch its Falcon Heavy rocket. According to companies, this rocket will have a lift of up to 63.8 tons to low Earth orbit. Around 2019 or 2020, NASA should fly its Space Launch Program rocket, with 70 tons of energy. At the same time, Washington-based Blue Origin decided to launch the New Glenn rocket with a lifting capacity of 45 tons. No other rocket under development in another country will have close to this lifting capacity.
NASA has successfully landed eight of nine missions to the surface of Mars, including the 1-ton Curiosity lander in 2012. Only its Mars Polar Lander failed to safely reach the surface in 1999. Two landers will be made analysis by the end of the decade, and SpaceX may send one or two private, uncrewed missions to Mars as well.
No other country can remotely boast of such a record. Four of the Soviet Union’s five spacecraft failed to reach Mars safely, and the one that did, Mars 3 in 1971, survived for only about 15 minutes. In addition, several Soviet and Russian attempts to reach the Martian moon Phobos have failed. Europe also tried to send a spacecraft to Mars twice, and both were lost in the process.
The outer world
NASA has explored the outer Solar System with Pioneer 10 and 11, Voyager 1 and 2, Galileo and now Juno missions to the Jupiter system, Cassini to Saturn, and New Horizons to Pluto and beyond. It’s amazing to think of the fact that every only order NASA’s mission to the outer Solar System has been successful. In this, NASA has a complete record with missions no other space agency has even attempted. The U.S. also has several other missions headed toward their goals, or under development, including more asteroid probes and a lander for Jupiter’s moon Europa.
By contrast, Russia has not had a successful mission in more than three years, since the 1984 launch of Vega 2, a probe to Venus and Halley’s Comet. The Soviet Union and Russia, moreover, have not gone beyond Mars.
The European Space Agency has participated in two NASA missions that have crossed the asteroid belt. The first, Ulysses, made two distant flybys of Jupiter during a mission that focused mainly on observing the Sun. NASA oversees the development of the second mission, Cassini, which has had an incredible run of observations of the Saturn system over the past decade. As part of that mission, the European Space Agency’s Titan Lander was extremely successful.
Reusable rocket technology
Thanks to commercial investment, as well as support from NASA for SpaceX through commercial crew and cargo contracts, the United States has an important lead in what is probably the most interesting new technology in aviation — transportation in vertical and vertical landing of rock climbers. The promise of these reusable launch systems is low cost, high frequency access to space, and the opening of the border for trade, national security, and perhaps distribution.
A recent Air Force Academy study found that the United States has a significant lead in these technologies thanks to SpaceX and Origin Blue, but the study warns that countries like China may copy these ideas and overtake the United States of America. strategic government investment is not done. .
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, only, is putting about $1 billion of his own money into his rocket company, Blue Origin. In 2015, Google approve $900 million in SpaceX. If you are aiming at venture capital, we can roughly estimate that private investors are putting about $2 billion a year into the US space industry. Compare that to Russia’s annual budget for all space activities, including ten years’ rocket maintenance, which is about $2 billion per year.
This is the “hot pot” of US success in space: billions of dollars flowing into new, innovative ideas for spaceflight and operations. Other countries have national space systems, with large bureaucracies. The United States has that, too, with NASA (which it funds to a much greater degree than any other government program). But he also has capital that pursues dreams like asteroid mining.
NASA has maintained this process, too. It has opened its part of the International Space Station for research and as a platform to launch cubesats. He has helped Bigelow Aerospace test a new inflatable space habitat. NASA has supported companies like Make in Space to experiment with space manufacturing. Finally, through commercial cargo and crew programs, NASA has commissioned private companies such as SpaceX, Orbital ATK, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to develop a modern spacecraft.
NASA got a bad name for the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, and indeed it has been painful to rely on Russia for the ride to the International Space Station since then. However, this does not mean NASA has eliminated lead in spaceflight. Within two years, the United States should have not one but two commercially viable human spaceflights—SpaceX’s Dragon and Boeing’s Starliner. This will be thanks to the first plan conceived by President George W. Bush that President Obama aggressively pursued in the face of opposition from some Republicans. Additionally, the deep space capsule, Orion, could be ready for humans in 2023.
Despite all his talk “America will lead in space once again”, the Trump administration has the ability to do some good with the revived National Space Council. While not saying that America is behind space, Pence on Thursday noted the many successes of the US commercial space industry.
If the new administration measures and simplifies the procedures for these companies, allowing NASA and the US military to make intelligent investments, set possible goals for human spaceflight, accept international partners than and dismiss them with an “America first” attitude, and continue to support the planet. visited without gutting Earth Science, America’s already considerable lead in space exploration may become insurmountable.