Some wonder if the president is pushing a risky manned flight into the first term of his administration in a potentially irresponsible way.
NASA is some pretty ambitious plans over the next few years, and one of its biggest missions could be due to the newest occupant of the White House, Donald Trump: a move to launch Space Launch System rockets with humans on board. The Trump administration has reportedly asked for a study to assess the feasibility of putting astronauts on board the SLS for its maiden voyage, a big change from the current plan, which is to put people on SLS next decade.
Clearly, Trump is hoping to put mankind back into space aboard NASA’s newest and most powerful rockets during his first term rather than wait until he leaves office. It would certainly be quite the splash that would do a lot for his 2020 campaign, but it will also mean a bit of scrambling for NASA, which must try to figure out how to do that without drawing out the launch schedule.
The agency has three years to refit the Kennedy space Centers launch pad for a manned launch, something that could be reduced but would mean pushing the first launch back to 2019.
It would also be a lot riskier for the astronauts who must climb into the rocket, for obvious reasons. NASA won’t have put the rocket under as much testing as they would prefer before going to manned flight.
“There are pros and cons both ways, and its hard to judge that [public] aspect,” NASA head of human exploration William Gerstenmaier said, according to the AP. “But I look at it more kind of matter-of-factly. What do I gain technically by putting crew on?”