The chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Representative José Serrano (D-N.J.), is proposing that NASA scrap its objective of placing astronauts on the moon by 2024.
Serrano and fellow House Democrats are pushing for the passage of H.R. 5666, which would completely overturn key aspects of the Trump Administration’s vital national space policy. They argue NASA should aim for a 2028 lunar landing date for “safety” reasons. But America’s competitors are not waiting for the United States to return to the moon. In particular, China has made itself ready to place its astronauts (called “taikonauts”) on the moon by 2024.
Addressing the space committee, Serrano pondered aloud:
Another concern that I have is a lack of a serious justification for [moving the launch date to 2024], since NASA has already programmed the lunar landing mission for 2028, why does it suddenly need to speed up the clock by four years . . . To a lot of [House] members the motivation appears to be just a political one: giving President Trump a moon landing in a possible second term should he be reelected.
Imagine that: a Democrat congressman shocked—shocked—that there is politicking going on in Washington, D.C.!
Serrano’s outrage rings hollow, however, particularly as the Democrats are doing exactly what they are accusing the president of doing with America’s national space policy.
Why else would Serrano delay the necessary launch of a manned mission to the moon other than to deny President Trump a momentous victory in the final year of what would be his second term? And why shouldn’t Trump enjoy a political victory in space? After all, he has spent much of his political capital on fostering what many space policy analysts believe is a renaissance in America’s space development.
Besides, Trump’s supposed shameless self-promotion is actually serving larger national interests whereas craven Democratic partisanship is harming the country.
President Trump is responding to a serious national security challenge from China in the strategic domain of space. Once Trump was elected and he announced his ambitious national space development program, China officially declared its own intentions to land taikonauts on the lunar surface no later than 2024. What’s more, China made clear that, unlike the Americans during the Apollo moon missions, the Chinese manned lunar missions would lead to permanent Chinese colonies on the moon within a few years.
Last month, China basked in the news that their scientists had finally created a rocket—the Long March 5B—capable of getting its taikonauts to the moon and back. The final piece in the Chinese plan for reaching the moon by 2024 was in place. The next great space race—this time with China—is on.
The White House in 2019 understood that it was only a matter of time before the Chinese managed to get their heavy-lift rocket working. So, without explicitly explaining why (so as to keep the Chinese off-guard), the Trump Administration deftly moved the launch year up from 2028 to 2024.
Of course, the Democrats and their allies in the administrative state don’t like competition. NASA is a U.S. government organization whose very founding was meant to ensure that the United States remained dominant in space. NASA was designed to fight and win the first space race against the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
Today, however, NASA is just another mindless bureaucracy that enjoys the largest budget of any national space program in existence and with very little to show for it. It’s just a big federal jobs program that takes really pretty pictures of the universe while other national space programs actually do the cool stuff, like placing humans on the moon and, potentially, Mars.
During the congressional hearings on H.R. 5666, NASA’s manager for the human landing system, Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan, testified:
This is a significant deviation for NASA and the government. All of [the changes from 2028 to 2024 must] be done on the fast. . . . Typically, in the past, the process has been quite methodical which has been good. We’re going to have to have an abbreviated approach to getting to approval for industry standards, to design and construction, and how we’re going to go off and implement this, because this is a big shift. I would say for the entire NASA community, too.
It’s as though there was no threat to America’s standing in space at all—or that NASA, at least in the eyes of Watson-Morgan and her colleagues, has no real connection to the national interest at all.
NASA is merely funded by us plebes but we dare not suggest the organization defend American interests first which, in this case, means ensuring the United States remains dominant in space. Instead, we must carp over the bureaucratic processes that Trump supposedly undermined.
Truth is, NASA needed a kick in the spacesuit and Trump provided it with his moonshot proposal for 2024. And what hallowed processes are NASA administrators and the House Democrats defending? We have not placed Americans on the moon since the 1970s. If anything, the processes and protocols of yesteryear need to be smashed and replaced with less restrictive ones.
The Democrats who wrote H.R. 5666 requested “a report from the National Space Council next year for ‘an interagency assessment of the space exploration capabilities of the People’s Republic of China, including any threats to United States assets in space, as well as the impact of cooperation and participation of the People’s Republic of China with other nations on space activities.’”
Clearly, the Democrats grasp that the Chinese pose some kind of threat to the United States in space. Yet, they are going to downplay the threat to spite the Bad Orange Man in the White House.
NASA Director Jim Bridenstine revealed that H.R. 5666 does more than just push back NASA’s lunar landing to 2028. In fact, H.R. 5666 (which moved out of committee on January 29 with “minor markups”) calls for the government ownership of all aspects of the new lunar mission (dubbed “Artemis”). In essence, the legislation as currently written kills private-sector support for a manned lunar mission.
Until now, NASA had been partnering with the budding private space sector to keep costs low and improve efficiency. The Democrats are trying to squelch that by demanding the U.S. government own and operate all aspects of the proposed Artemis moon mission. This would further ensure that American astronauts will not return to the moon before the Chinese get there.
Here, then, is yet another example of what Michael Anton has called the, “Empire Strikes Back.” The deep state cannot defeat Trump at the ballot box so it will use the elephantine bureaucracy to complicate and stop his Greatness Agenda. Remaining dominant in space is part of making America great again!
The Democrats are putting America’s future and security at risk. Whichever country conquers space first will write the destiny of the rest of us on Earth for this century. Clearly, the House Democrats don’t care. They want us to lose to the Red Chinese because that would be a victory for them over “that man” in the White House.