President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are gearing up for a fight with Democrats over NASA’s global warming budget.
Trump has tapped former Republican Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Walker as a senior adviser to his NASA transition team — a man who thinks NASA should do less “politically correct environmental monitoring” and more space exploration.
“NASA should be focused primarily on deep-space activities rather than Earth-centric work that is better handled by other agencies,” Walker and Peter Navarro, another senior adviser to the Trump campaign, wrote in an October opinion piece. “Human exploration of our entire solar system by the end of this century should be NASA’s focus and goal.”
Spending on earth sciences has increased by 63 percent over the last eight years, making it the largest and fastest growing budget of any NASA science program. The agency now spends more on environmental research than many of its other science functions, including astrophysics and space technology. Those programs only get $781.5 million and $826.7 million, respectively.
“A number of prominent Republicans on Capitol Hill think that NASA should not be involved to the degree that it is in Earth science,” Jeff Foust, a senior writer at the trade publication SpaceNews, told Space.com. “I would certainly expect to see some sort of development in terms of potential reduction to NASA’s Earth science program.”
Climate scientists are already pushing back against the Trump administration.
Dr. Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the agency’s top climate scientist, threatened to resign if Trump stopped funding the agency’s global warming programs.