Early on Monday morning, NASA’s veteran astronaut Peggy Whitson set a US record for cumulative time in space, surpassing Jeff Williams’ record of 534 days. To honor her achievement, President Donald Trump called Whitson from the Oval Office, flanked by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and another NASA astronaut, Kate Rubins.
The conversation was cordial, and President Trump was gracious in congratulating Whitson and asking about her science activities on the space station. After Whitson explained various engineering efforts, including the recycling of urine into water to make for a closed-loop environmental system, Trump replied, “Well that’s good, I’m glad to hear that. Better you than me.”
And then later in the story he mentions he’d like to send people to Mars during his first term:
“Well, we want to try and do it during my first term, or at worst during my second term, so we’ll have to speed that up a little bit, OK?” Trump responded. His comment seems at odds with the agency’s expectations for a flat budget over the next five years, which, far from enabling a Mars mission, likely would preclude all but brief human flybys of the Moon.
And so we find ourselves scratching our heads at the disconnect between the goal and the reality of no budget to do it.
Anyway, I’m all in favor of send Hair Führer to Mars; it’s the return trip that bums me out.