On September 1, 2017, President Trump nominated Jim Bridenstine to be the new administrator of NASA.
This move has been met with criticism because Bridenstine has no official science or engineering background. However, Bridenstine does have three majors in Economics, Psychology and Business from Rice University and an MBA from Cornell University. He was a pilot in the U.S. Air National Guard, an executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2013.
As the new head of NASA, he is expected to direct an increase in funding for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, at the expense of funding for Earth Science. According to NASA’s Presidential Budget Requests of 2017 and 2018, Astrophysics and Planetary Science budgets are expected to increase from Obama’s 2017 request of 2.3 billion dollars to Trump’s 2018 request of 2.75 billion dollars which is a 20 percent increase. Furthermore, the human exploration part of NASA will see an increase from Obama’s 2017 request of 3.34 billion dollars to Trump’s 2018 request of 3.93 billion dollars, an 18 percent rise. On the other hand, Earth Science is expected to decrease from Obama’s 2017 request of 2.03 billion dollars to Trump’s 2018 request of 1.75 billion dollars, a decrease of 14 percent.
This shift in direction for NASA––away from Earth and towards the stars––may largely be due to the Republican Party’s skepticism of human-caused climate change but enthusiasm for space exploration. As a whole, it is expected that NASA’s budget will neither increase nor decrease in 2018. NASA has escaped the Trump administration’s wide cuts in government funding and spending for all but the military, veterans and Homeland Security. As the new head of NASA, Bridenstine will direct this shift in focus toward more human exploration of the solar system, more astrophysics and planetary research but less about the Earth and climate change research.