We’ve all done it. We’ve all seen something ridiculous, maybe a terrible reality show, maybe an awful political event, and muttered to ourselves “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.” It might surprise you that Congress feels the same way, as they’ve approved NASA’s budget and told it to go to Mars.
Considering the budget cuts the current administration is doling out, it’s a bit surprising that NASA’s budget has passed both the House and Senate and just needs the executive to sign off on it. Doubly so, really, because the last NASA appropriations bill that got through both houses passed in 2010. But if it does so, there’s a host of interesting policy initiatives. First of all, Congress wants NASA on Mars by the 2030s, which will grab the most headlines, but is a pretty strong policy endorsement for a Mars mission. No doubt Elon Musk’s Mars mission had something to do with this. They also want NASA back on the Moon by 2021.
More generally, though, the bill is salted with interesting orders. NASA is ordered to track the long-term health of astronauts, explore the ability of humans to colonize beyond Earth’s orbit in general, and has been asked to build more hypersonic and supersonic aircraft for transportation purposes. The biggest question, though, is what might happen to NASA’s climate change research; the words “climate change” are nowhere in the bill.