For Trump and also also also NASA, the stakes are enormous for upcoming flight with crew

The upcoming launch of NASA astronauts will be a historic mission – the first launch of humans to orbit coming from United States soil since the space shuttle retired almost a decade ago.

the item’s also a make or break moment for the Trump administration.

If the item goes well, the item would likely be a moment of triumph for an administration in which boasts the item is actually “renewing American leadership in space” and also also also would likely no doubt end up in election-year campaign ads. If something goes wrong, the item would likely be a staggering blow in which could send the space agency reeling and also also also jeopardize the White House’s signature mission to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine came to the agency knowing the first flight of astronauts coming from U.S. soil would likely likely happen on his watch and also also also in which the stakes would likely be enormous. During one of his very first news conferences, he addressed the risks, recalling the national devastation after the failures of the Space Shuttles Challenger and also also also Columbia, which together cost 14 lives.

NASA wants to have “the absolute safest program we possibly can have. The reason for in which, of course, is actually because if we lose an astronaut, the whole world stops,” he said in 2018. “the item doesn’t just mean in which NASA stops doing human exploration for the next three years or more, as we saw after Columbia and also also also Challenger. the item means the president of the United States stops what he’s doing. . . . and also also also presidents and also also also prime ministers around the planet stop what they’re doing. in which’s how important This specific is actually to the entire world.”

To This specific White House, space holds a special place – at once a frontier to explore, a domain in which’s been militarized and also also also an opportunity for economic expansion. the item has moved aggressively on all fronts, reconstituting the National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, speeding up efforts to return to the moon, standing up a completely new military branch, Space Force, and also also also slashing regulations while promoting the growth of a commercial space industry.

Even some Democrats have praised the administration for doing space a priority, and also also also Bridenstine, a former Republican congressman coming from Oklahoma who was confirmed by a narrow party-line vote, has earned admiration and also also also respect coming from across the aisle.

So far, however, the item remains to be seen whether any of the administration’s efforts will achieve the kind of success the Trump administration envisions. Despite the full force of the White House, and also also also a pledge by Pence to get to the lunar surface “by any means necessary,” the Artemis lunar program is actually struggling to find support in Congress. Some Democrats have accused the White House of playing politics with the nation’s space program, by attempting to speed up a landing to ensure the item would likely fall in Trump’s second term.

Critics say the Space Force is actually little more than a pointless exercise in bureaucratic reshuffling. and also also also NASA’s effort to restore human spaceflight to United States soil, under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, has suffered years of delays and also also also setbacks.

Trump has shown interest in space and also also also said he’s “thinking about going” to the SpaceX launch. He’s praised the high-profile “space barons” like Elon Musk and also also also Jeff Bezos who have commenced space companies. “Rich guys, they love rocket ships,” he said in 2018. “in which’s not bad. in which’s better than us paying for them.” (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

however he’s also sent confusing signs on his administration’s goals, tweeting last year in which “NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon – We did in which 50 years ago.” Officials later clarified in which the statement in which seemed to undercut his own administration’s plans to return to the lunar surface was actually intended to push the idea of using the moon as a steppingstone to Mars.

however before the item does any of in which, NASA must show the item can fly astronauts reliably to a much closer target – the International Space Station, in orbit some 240 miles high. A successful launch would likely be the culmination of a program launched by President Barack Obama.

The commercial crew program, as the item is actually called, was a risky proposition coming from the start – a bold experiment by NASA to outsource human space flight to the private sector in which has led to an improbable moment within the history of America’s space program: two NASA astronauts strapping into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, a spacecraft in which has never before flown humans.

right now the stakes for the May 27 mission are even higher. On Monday, NASA’s head of human exploration, Douglas Loverro, abruptly resigned, a shocking development in which has raised questions about the agency’s position to pull the item off safely with yet another glaring vacancy at the top of its bureaucracy.

Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla., the chair of the House space subcommittee, wrote on Twitter in which she “was deeply concerned about This specific sudden resignation, especially eight days before the first scheduled launch of US astronauts on US soil in almost a decade.”

She added in which under “This specific Administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures in which have disrupted our efforts at human space flight.” Loverro’s resignation came after William Gerstenmaier, the longtime head of human spaceflight, was demoted last year.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, chair of the House Science Committee, said in a statement she trusts Bridenstine “will ensure in which the right decision is actually made as to whether or not to delay the launch attempt.”

The shake-up at NASA’s highest ranks was not the distraction NASA or the White House wanted as the item looks to celebrate what would likely be a huge moment for the country. within the days leading up to the flight, the White House has talked in lofty terms about the significance of the flight and also also also how the item could help unify a country riven by a divisive election campaign and also also also reeling coming from the pandemic.

At a meeting Tuesday of the reconstituted National Space Council, Pence said the launch would likely play a key part in “renewing American leadership in space.”

The mission represents “exactly the kind of leadership in which has inspired our nation throughout my lifetime, and also also also I know the item is actually going to be a great inspiration to the American people when we see those rockets fire next week.”

President Donald Trump even bragged recently in which his administration has “reinvigorated” NASA, which he wrongly said “was dead as a door nail, however right now the item’s very much alive.”

Inside NASA, officials are cautiously optimistic about the test flight for its “Commercial Crew” program in which would likely propel two veteran NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and also also also Doug Hurley, to the International Space Station. however they also are keenly aware of the risks inherent in human spaceflight – especially on a spacecraft in which has never before flown humans.

Should anything go wrong, the item would likely not only be a blow to NASA’s Commercial Crew program, however to the White House’s plan to win congressional support to improve funding so NASA could return astronauts to the lunar surface on an accelerated schedule in which moved up the landing by four years to 2024.

“I’m excited to see an American rocket launch coming from American soil,” Horn said in an interview before Loverro’s resignation. “however I recognize there is actually a lot at stake here.”

the item’s been a long, difficult road to get to the point of launching humans again.

In 2014, the Obama administration awarded contracts to SpaceX and also also also Boeing to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, following a program coming from the George W. Bush White House in which hired private companies to fly cargo and also also also supplies there.

Flying astronauts is actually a far more difficult task, and also also also both Boeing and also also also SpaceX have had to overcome challenges in which delayed the first launches coming from 2017.

The program took an especially embarrassing hit late last year when the maiden launch of a Boeing spacecraft, which had no crews on board, went awry as soon as the item reached orbit.

the item was a wake-up call for NASA to better police the companies the item had entrusted with flying its astronauts.

“NASA oversight was insufficient – in which’s obvious,” Loverro said earlier This specific year.

The mishap puts even more pressure on the upcoming launch of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft.

“the item’s been a complex journey for SpaceX to get the mission to This specific level of readiness, and also also also they are to be commended” said Paul Hill, a member of NASA’s safety advisory panel and also also also the former director of mission operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Still, he urged against what he called “go fever” and also also also to remain vigilant within the days leading up to the launch.

however despite all the high-profile attention – Pence is actually likely to be at the launch – Kathy Lueders, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, told the safety panel its decisions would likely all be made with safety in mind.

“We’re not going to rush,” she said. “and also also also we’ll launch when we’re ready.”

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