Recently Robert Bigelow, the Nevada real estate tycoon who has started a commercial space company, opened his Twitter account with a shout-out to Donald Trump, a New York real estate tycoon who has started his own campaign for the presidency of the United States. Bigelow took the tweet down, but then reposted it with some additional commentary.
“What this country needs is an inspirational space program. I'll bet @realDonaldTrump could do it.”
“For a sustained lunar presence, intelligent business operation of trade and commerce is key.”
And then another
“Which presidential leader or leaders qualify?”
The answer could be any number of people running for president. Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzHow 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation AIPAC must reach out to President Trump Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE (R-Texas), Jeb Bush, and Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate intel panel has not seen Nunes surveillance documents: lawmakers With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder MORE (R-Fla.) come to mind. However, if Bigelow or anyone else places their hopes in a President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMcCain says he hasn't met with Trump since inauguration Mulvaney: Let states figure out 'essential health benefits' How President Trump can restore sanity to America's labor laws MORE to “make America great again” by ramping up space exploration, they may have to live with disappointment.
Last August, according to Forbes, a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School & MIT named Conor Cullinane asked Trump at a rally in Hampton, New Hampshire what he thought of NASA’s plans to land astronauts on Mars in the 2030s. Trump eventually replied, “Honestly, I think it’s wonderful; I want to rebuild our infrastructure first, ok? I think it’s wonderful.”
However, Trump’s body language and facial expressions seemed to indicate that he thought the idea to be the most absurd thing he had ever heard.
In November, at an event in Manchester, New Hampshire, a 10 year-old boy named Adam approached Trump about his thoughts concerning NASA, the Washington Post reported. Trump gave a similar answer that he gave the MIT scientist. "You know, in the old days, it was great. Right now, we have bigger problems — you understand that? We've got to fix our potholes. You know, we don't exactly have a lot of money."
The reason that these responses are important is that, incredibly, Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. And, considering that the Democrats have a choice between the legally compromised Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWarren: 'Today is a great day... but I'm not doing a touchdown dance' Hollywood stars weigh in on GOP pulling healthcare bill Hillary Clinton: Today was a victory, 'but this fight isn't over yet' MORE and the socialist Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren: 'Today is a great day... but I'm not doing a touchdown dance' Sanders: Canceled ObamaCare repeal vote 'major victory' for working class Stunning polls show Sanders soaring while 'TrumpCare' crashes MORE (I-Vt.), he has a more than even chance of being the 45th president if he is nominated.
Trump’s attitude toward space seems to be that, while it is a wonderful thing, it has to wait for earthly problems, in his case fixing potholes and repairing bridges. Infrastructure is important, but for those people who have waited for Americans to go back into deep space since 1972, the attitude that space exploration must be deferred yet again is depressing.
But, perhaps Robert Bigelow is just the man to convince Trump that space exploration has immediate value. Bigelow is building inflatable modules that are designed to serve as the basis of private space stations and even a lunar base.
Perhaps if, instead of scientists or small boys, a group of corporate CEOs were to sit down with Trump and explain how, say, returning to the moon would have both scientific and commercial value, he might take the idea seriously. Besides Bigelow, Bob Richards of Moon Express, John Thornton of Astrobotic Technologies, and Bill Stone of Shackleton Energy come to mind.
A lunar base or, as the Europeans prefer to call it, a Moon Village, would be the biggest real estate deal in history. The project would appeal to Trump’s outsized ego. Indeed, even if he does not get elected president, Donald Trump could be put in charge of putting the project together. The appealing aspect for him, aside from the good a return to the moon would garner the world, is that while there have been dozens of presidents of the United States, there will be only one man who will have sold the moon.
That would be huge.
Whittington, who writes frequently about space and politics, has just published a political study of space exploration entitled Why is it so Hard to Go Back to the Moon? He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.