Trump signs $19.5bn NASA bill to fund 2030s Mars mission

22 Mar 2017

US president Donald Trump at the signing ceremony for the NASA funding bill. Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls

US president Donald Trump to fund future human space exploration, signing a bill giving the go ahead for $19.5bn in NASA funding to be used to send astronauts to Mars.

Despite massive public spending cuts for governmental organisations like the Environmental Protection Agency, US president Donald Trump appears to be much more willing to fund humankind’s bid to land on another planet.

According to The Washington Post, Trump yesterday (21 March) signed a bill into law that would give NASA $19.5bn in funding over the next seven years to further its aims of landing humans on Mars, among other things.

The funding will contribute towards the building of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, with the aim of sending astronauts to Mars in 2033.

Having received support from both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, Trump commented at the signing ceremony that humankind’s future lies in deep space exploration.

“It’s been a long time since a bill like this has been signed reaffirming our national commitment to the core mission of NASA: human space exploration, space science and technology,” Trump said.

Also commenting on the bill was NASA’s acting administrator Robert Lightfoot, who said: “Our workforce has proven time and again that it can meet any challenge, and the continuing support for NASA ensures our nation’s space programme will remain the world’s leader in pioneering new frontiers in exploration, innovation and scientific achievement.”

Astronauts get healthcare for life

Other features of the new bill will come as welcome news to NASA’s astronauts, both in service and retired. The TREAT Astronauts Act will support the payment of healthcare for life relating to any issues that arise from space travel.

The challenges the human body faces in the rigours of space and zero gravity have been well documented in astronauts who have stayed aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for up to a year at a time.

If humans do make it to Mars with the intention of establishing a colony, recent research has warned that they could be facing a significant risk of developing cancer.

The bill also reintroduces the National Space Council, which previously operated under President George HW Bush as an advisory council between the government and NASA.

One thing that has been cut from NASA’s future plans is the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which had planned to land a spacecraft on the asteroid Bennu. Lightfoot has stated that the mission is now dead.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic