The Trump administration is considering a brave vision for the future of the United States space program: privatization. Internal White House documents reveal that the plan calls for the construction of privately operated space stations and turning NASA into an organization focused on “the large-scale economic development of space”.
This strategy appeals to Trump’s pro-business and pro-jobs campaign promises, and has the potential to reignite a long-dormant space program. The early indications are that private rocket firms like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and their supporters have a clear upper hand in what Trump’s transition advisers portrayed as a race between “Old Space” and “New Space,” according to emails among key players inside the administration. Trump has met with Bezos and Musk, while tech investor Peter Thiel, a close confidant, has lobbied the president to look at using NASA to help grow the private space industry.
Trump has not yet named a director for NASA, Politico reports, but fingers point to Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma as the top contender.
The more ambitious administration vision could include new moon landings that “see private American astronauts, on private space ships, circling the Moon by 2020; and private lunar landers staking out de facto ‘property rights’ for American on the Moon, by 2020 as well,” according to a summary of an “agency action plan” that the transition drew up for NASA late last month.