Washington: With Donald Trump promising to “unlock the mysteries of space” in his time as US President during his inaugural address, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot has taken over as its acting administrator. Lightfoot takes over from Charles Bolden and Dava Newman who stepped down as Administrator and Deputy Ddministrator, respectively, at the end of Barack Obama’s term, Space.com reported on Monday.
“To be entrusted with this incredible agency, no matter how long, is an honour, and I commit to serving this team to the best of my ability so we can accomplish our ambitious missions and make this nation proud,” Lightfoot said in an internal memo to employees.
The Trump administration is yet to announce a name for the NASA Administrator. Lightfoot said that the administration has appointed Erik Noble to serve as White House senior advisor and Greg Autry to be White House liaison.
“The two are the first members of the so-called ‘beachhead team’ of administration staffers assigned to NASA, at least on a short-term basis,” the report added.
“There will be other new and familiar faces arriving at Headquarters, and we will communicate with you as often as possible to keep you apprised of those developments,” Lightfoot wrote in the statement.
Earlier, during a rally just two weeks before the election, Trump reiterated he would look to focus on exploring deep space.
“I will free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low-Earth orbit activity – big deal. Instead, we will refocus its mission on space exploration. Under a Trump Administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars,” ,” he told a rally in Florida in October.
In what could herald a new era for NASA, Trump is also set to cut the US space agency’s budget for climate change and let it focus on sending humans on deep space exploration missions like Mars, including another “giant leap” to the Moon.
“NASA has been reduced to a logistics agency concentrating on space station resupply and politically correct environmental monitoring. We would start by having a stretch goal of exploring the entire solar system by the end of the century,” Bob Walker, who has advised Trump on space policy, told the Telegraph in November.
NASA is already working to get humans to the surface of the Red Planet by the first half of the 2030s, as instructed by Obama. But things may change under Trump. The US space agency is already developing a capsule called Orion and a huge rocket known as the Space Launch System (SLS) to get astronauts to distant destinations such as Mars.