President Trump hasn’t named his nominee to run NASA yet, but that agency could end up providing his presidency with its most memorable legacy. Trump has been meeting with SpaceX founder Elon Musk, one of the nation’s foremost proponents of establishing a permanent human presence on Mars, and the president may decide that’s what the space agency should be aiming to achieve. Musk warns that it is just a matter of time before the Earth experiences another mass-extinction event like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, and before that day arrives humanity needs to become a “multi-planetary species.” Mars is the only other planet in the Solar System that could sustain a permanent human presence, because it has lots of water, soil nutrients necessary to plant life, and reasonably hospitable temperatures (at least compared with other planets). Beyond that, putting American astronauts on Mars could contribute to the restoration of American greatness — a common Trump theme — while bolstering U.S. technology and rewarding the president’s political base. I have written a commentary for Forbes on why the president might fix his gaze on the Red Planet that you can read here.
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