Fri. Feb 3rd, 2023
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, talks to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon at a policy forum in February.
Enlarge / Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, talks to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon at a policy forum in February.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

SpaceX founder Elon Musk only very rarely criticizes NASA and Congress in public – which is not surprising given that NASA has backed his company with more than $3 billion in cargo and crew supply contracts for the International Space Station. But he broke that rule Tuesday night when asked on Twitter about the new NASA authorization law.

“This bill changes almost nothing about what NASA is doing. Existing programs remain in place and there is no additional funding for Mars,” Musk said. tweeted. “Maybe there will be a future bill that will make a difference to Mars, but this isn’t it,” he said added.

Musk is absolutely right on two counts. First, an “authorization” invoice does not provide financing. That comes from credit committees. Second, while Congress has been interested in building rockets and spacecraft, it is much less interested in investing in the kind of technology and research that would actually enable a full-fledged Mars exploration program.

Much of the mainstream coverage after President Trump signed the NASA authorization bill on Tuesday focused on the legislation’s call to send humans to Mars. (For example, the AP headlined his story “Trump Signs Bill Approving NASA, Mars Exploration Funding”). However, this perception is probably wrong, as Musk points out. There is lukewarm interest in Congress in aggressively funding humans to Mars — which would cost hundreds of billions of dollars to do with traditional aerospace companies — and according to sources Ars spoke to, such a costly endeavor has almost no government interest- Trump himself. .

It remains likely that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will elect Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine to become NASA’s next administrator. Bridenstine favors near-term lunar exploration for several reasons, including geopolitical concerns and the potential economic value of lunar water ice. It’s not hard to see, then, why Musk, a Mars enthusiast, might be disappointed with the new NASA legislation that keeps the agency on the same course: talking about Mars, but not making much progress to get there.

By akfire1

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