In 2017, Earth is out and space is in. Donald Trump is reportedly planning to pull funding from NASA's Earth science division in favor of deep space exploration, The Guardian reports.
Despite NASA's global leadership when it comes to questions of climate phenomena like clouds, temperature, and ice, Trump senior campaign adviser Bob Walker explained that NASA's focus should not be "politically correct environmental monitoring." "We see NASA in an exploration role, in deep space research,” he said. “Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission."
Critics have expressed alarm over the reorganization of NASA's funds. "It could put us back into the 'dark ages' of almost the pre-satellite era," said Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "It would be extremely short sighted." He called the decision "a major setback, if not devastating."
"Space research is a luxury," Trenberth went on. "Earth observations are essential.”
A NASA spokesperson told The Guardian that the agency is doing whatever it can to make the transition to the Trump administration a smooth one, but also that "the agency remains focused on the future, a future that will improve our understanding of our changing home planet from NASA's unique platforms in space."
Trump has proposed the goal of exploring the solar system by the end of the century and has historically wobbled on his position on climate change. The president-elect said Tuesday that he believes there is "some connectivity" between climate change and human actions, a reversal from his 2012 opinion that the phenomenon is a Chinese "hoax."