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Pence plants "moon tree", but will it grow?



Yet the Pence backyard planting ceremony can also be a metaphor for the Trump administration's ambitious plan to bring Americans back to the moon in five years: There is a real threat that it will dry up until spring.

Congress has not found the extra $ 30 billion the effort is expected to put in, and Democrats who control the House worry that other NASA award programs will suffer from what they rejected as a political cascade . The space program is also unlikely to be on the list of priorities for MPs overwhelmed by the adoption of government funding bills and an impeachment inquiry aimed at an election year.

Uncertainty about the lunar target was palpable on Friday when former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, was invited to make a few remarks. One of the participants in the event, taking a deep breath, expressed concern privately about what the incomprehensible veteran of Apollo 1

1, who is known for not always following the script, might say .

"I have great faith in … Artemis," Aldrin tells the assembled, citing NASA's efforts to send people to the moon. But then he gave a plug to billionaire Ilon Musk, whose company also plans

"I think maybe these people, SpaceX, their Star Ship, can just put some people on the moon before Artemis does it." said Aldrin, adding that NASA should work more closely with other missile companies such as Blue Origin and the United Launch Alliance.

President Donald Trump has made space exploration and development a major policy priority . He empowered Pence to accelerate the objective of the moon and to revise regulations to attract more private space investments, including the promotion of a historic number of public-private partnerships to reach the moon.

But much of the pressure is on NASA. This means that Congress, which so far does not seem ready to commit itself to care and nutrition t hat, will be needed to support the effort.

The government is funded by a continuing resolution that runs until 21 November. If guerrilla battles make it impossible to pass funding bills and Congress adopts a year-long resolution that locks into last year's funding levels NASA "will really be in danger of losing 2024," says Scott Pace, executive secretary of the recently revived National Space Council, which Pence chairs.

Even if Congress can pass funding bills, NASA's best committee member is not on board with the 2024 target.

"Why is it suddenly necessary to accelerate the clock by four years – the time it takes Rep. Jose Serrano (DN.Y.), chairman of the NASA-funded Chamber's subcommittee, told a hearing last month. "For many members, the motivation seems merely political, giving President Trump the moon to land a possible second term if re-elected."

The proposed 2020 budget financing bill will only give NASA [19659002] $ 22.32 billion, which does not include additional funding for the administration's lunar ambitions.

The Senate budget plan would give NASA the most, but not all, of the $ 1.6 billion in extra money it asked for in the new year as a down payment for the estimated $ 30 billion that the effort would eventually will be worth it.

"Even Washington and D.C. working perfectly, I think it would be hard to sell, "says Phil Larson, former space adviser to President Barack Obama.

He said that the Apollo program during the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union was considered a national imperative. "If you're talking to the American public right now, this may not be a national imperative for most Americans."

Trump's top advisers in outer space acknowledge the challenge. "How much can NASA's top line grow and how much can we modernize, but not hurt other parts of NASA's portfolio that people feel very dedicated to," Pace said in an interview. "That's the hard part. They want assurances that we will not squeeze out other parts of the budget so that we can only go for research. "

But even if we were to work for such an ambitious purpose, the space program was re-enacted, he argues, saying that it would bring NASA in the form of returning humans from low Earth orbit for the first time since 1972.

" If we miss 2024 – which I do not admit – we are still building an ability that will benefit future administrations and the nation, "Pace said.

But with less than a year to go until the 2020 elections, it is not clear what will become of these priorities under a Democratic president.

Pace believes that regardless of who occupies the White House, the broader goals are in the interests of America. "We can change the labels and talk about the details of the border," he said, "but the total effort to move beyond the space station, retain partners and sales people and go to the moon, I'm almost certain it will survive. ”

The planting of these seeds from a new space age was clear, where Pence focused on planting trees on Friday. POLITICO and Scholastic News' Kid Reporter were the only media invited to attend.

The tree was grown from seed obtained from one of the original lunar trees that originated from seeds that flew into space in 1972 with Apollo 14 astronomer Stuart Rosa, who had previously fought wildfires with the U.S. Forest Service .

"You may need to put some more seeds together," the Vice President noted. "I think we also need to make plans to bring back seeds from Mars."


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