Trump-Biden takeover, the smoothest for the new US space degree program

General Raymond (left), head of the US Space Force, sample the flag with the emblem of the new military branch [White House].

Unlike the abrupt changes of recent presidencies, the new Administration maintains the creation of the Space Force and the Moon as the next goal .

test that the new space degree program is serious is that, for the first time in many years, the United States is sticking to a fixed course in its journey to the stars. George W. Bush proposed going back to the Moon; Barack Obama, on the other hand, spoke of first going for an asteroid and then put Mars first; Donald Trump was more specific than his predecessors: he launched the Space Force and set up a programme, 'Artemis', which should take manned missions to the Moon and at the same time serve as a bridgehead for a future destination on Mars. Joe Biden has made no U-turn, but intends to continue in the direction indicated by what already seems to be an American consensus.

article / Pablo Sanz

10 June 2021 / The new space age is marked by the interest of the private business in the economic exploitation of space - the satellite industry, space tourism and the prospect of a lucrative mining business - and by the involvement of the great powers both in a hypothetical war scenario and in new exploration horizons.
At a time of budgetary difficulties, Obama did not prioritize NASA, but left in the hands of private companies the technological development to access close orbits and also lured them with the appropriation of space resources. That privatization continued with Trump, but the characteristic of his presidency, in a reborn global geopolitical confrontation, was to again dip into public funds. He launched the Space Force (USSF) as a new branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, and established a new purpose for NASA: the manned return to the Moon, with the creation of a station in lunar orbit to serve as a stopover to then set foot on Mars. Biden maintains the direction taken.

US Space Force 

Ever since he arrived at the White House, Trump has insisted on the idea of building a Space Force that would have the same rank as the five branches of the existing Armed Forces. First instituted as a germ within the Air Force, the US Space Force would eventually have its own budget, facilities, personnel (under the name of Guardians) and commanders. Its goal was to confront the alleged threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran in space. The directive for the creation of this military corps was signed by President Trump in February 2019; it was formed at the end of that year.

With the change of Administration and in view of the doubts that the Pentagon itself had raised, due to questions of expense, about an initiative that many interpreted as a whim of Trump's, some media pointed to a backtracking on the part of Biden. However, the new White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, announced in February this year that the creation of this military branch had the president's full support. Psaki commented that the new administration had no intention of modifying or reducing the structure of the Space Force and endorsed its progressive implementation: issue is expected to grow from 2,400 to 6,400 members by the end of this year.

The Space Force recently announced its intention to establish a Space Systems Command (SSC) in Los Angeles, whose goal will oversee the development of next-generation technologies and the acquisition of satellites and launch services. The SSC will assume the responsibilities currently performed by the Space and Missile Systems Centre (SMC) and will oversee a staff of 10,000. The SSC will be one of three Space Force field commands and will be led by three-star generals who will report to the chief of space operations, John Raymond. Raymond argues that the organisational structure of the SSC is specifically designed to anticipate and respond to the challenges presented by a contested space domain.

NASA's new leadership 

With the inauguration of Joe Biden, there was also a change at the helm of the American space agency. The NASA administrator appointed by Trump, Jim Bridenstine, resigned from his position to facilitate the changes that the new president deemed appropriate. Biden appointed former Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, a close ally of his, to the post. Although the new administration has yet to make its mark, it is keeping its sights on a manned return to the moon - for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972 - and continuing the Artemis programme. In recent months, NASA has been able to celebrate the successful arrival of Perseverance on Mars, which is part of several ongoing unmanned exploration missions.

For the time being, Biden has order congress a discretionary expense for NASA of 24.7 billion dollars for the US fiscal year 2022. According to the agency's own announcement, from agreement with the tone of the new administration, this funding will make it possible: 

-Keep NASA on track to land the first woman and first black man on the moon under the Artemis programme. 

-To better understand the functioning of planet Earth. 

-Encourage robotic exploration of both the solar system and the universe. 

-Investing in aviation. 

-Inspiring students to become the next generation of scientists 

Fight on the Moon

With the Artemis programme and at partnership with space agencies from Western countries and commercial companies, NASA aims to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon and a space base in its orbit, starting with an estimated first manned flight in 2024. This should help private companies explore the feasibility of a lunar Economics and serve as a stepping stone for human spaceflight to Mars from 2033. Ongoing spacecraft programmes such as Orion, Lunar Gateway Orbital Platform and Commercial Lunar Payload Services are integrated into the framework initiative. 

Through this multilateral mission, the United States will work with domestic industry and international partners, following the principles of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which aims to facilitate exploration, science and commercial activities by preventing nations from claiming sovereignty over outer space. 

Although the new national security strategy has not yet been published, it is highly likely that it will include a space strategy reference letter , as the major powers are also moving the geopolitical tension between them off the planet. Recently, China and Russia have announced their intention to build a lunar base; although they have invited the international community to join the effort, the initiative is still seen as an alternative to the one promoted by the US and its allies.

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