Perspective: Trump’s announcement on astronauts to the moon

Having faced a lot of flak recently, US President Donald Trump may have found some relief in the widespread support he received for the new space policy directive he signed on Monday.

Promising to “restore American leadership in space”, he called on Americans to imagine the possibilities of “daring to dream big” when he announced that his administration is planning to send astronauts to the moon once again.

It’s a smaller dream than his predecessor’s, for whom the moon was always a case of been there, done that. But then it is the more pragmatic way to get to Mars.

For without sufficient funding or help from nations such as China, NASA will not be capable of making the next giant leap for mankind, as a report by the National Research Council bluntly pointed out.

All Trump’s predecessors, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, dreamed of ambitious space missions to boldly go where no man had gone before, only for each of them to see their grandiose visions fall by the wayside, mainly because of the mammoth costs involved and budget constraints.

Trump’s business acumen may come in handy this time, as a White House statement said he will “create incentives” for private industry and cooperation with other nations is on the cards. There has already been talk of the United States and Russia collaborating on a lunar space station.

And it would certainly be a giant leap forward if the US could abandon its policy that bans NASA from engaging in bilateral agreements and coordination with China regarding space.

Although a latecomer to space, China has made tremendous progress. It is now on track to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 and build a space station around 2022.

While harking back to the times when the U.S. considered itself great having won the space race, Trump should bear in mind that times have changed. Investment in the space program will no doubt lead to increased job creation, innovation and military applications as the administration claims, but the U.S. should commit to the peaceful use of space and look to forge increased cooperation with other spacefaring countries.

For a future inspired by journeys of exploration and discovery among the stars has been a shared dream of humans since we first wondered about the heavens.

— From China Daily. Online: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/