President Trump has said he wants NASA to refocus its energies beyond our home planet. But even planetary scientists have expressed concerns about scaling back the mission to stud Planet Earth.
Trump’s proposed budget includes increased funding for astronaut spacecraft and planetary exploration, but makes explicit cuts as well, eliminating four climate-related satellite missions – a proposal that has sparked much criticism from environmental communities. The budget blueprint also includes increased funding for research into the asteroids, moons, and other planets of our solar system, but even planetary scientists are wary of scaling back Earth monitoring.
“Planetary science benefits from this budget – if it stands – but I don’t see anybody celebrating,” says McSween.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, McSween and his colleagues heard about the blueprint at the March Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.
“It was really strange,” McSween says. “Even though this was the place where planetary people come, and you’d think they’d be most focused on ‘What does NASA’s funding portend for planetary explanation?’ … so many of the questions and comments were, ‘We are distressed [by] the de-emphasis of Earth-based science in NASA,’ ” he recalls.