President Trump wants to go back to the moon. But the way to do that would be very different from the 1960s-era Apollo program.
Instead of being driven by a Cold War space race against the Soviet Union, the United States instead is trying partner with a growing commercial space industry that has drawn the attention of the White House.
In a new policy directive to be signed Thursday, the White House vowed to streamline old regulations that it said hampered space companies for years, allowing them to grow and prosper. That, in turn, would help the White House meet its goal of returning to the lunar surface.
In a call with reporters, a senior White House official said: “We realized that budgets are limited, and this is not going to be a Cold War space race where we drop almost unlimited amounts of money on a problem. So, if we’re really going to do our space exploration activities, we need to grow the economy. And one of the best ways we can think of to grow the economy, in fact, is to deregulate it, streamline it, provide new enabling regulations that provide a foundation for all of our space activities.”
Trump recently lauded the triumphs of several space companies founded by billionaire entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, saying at a Cabinet meeting: “Rich guys, they love rocket ships. That’s good. That’s better than us paying for them.”
The new policy would make it easier for companies to get licenses to launch their rockets and create what Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, called a “new one-stop shop at the Department of Commerce for commercial space companies.”
In a statement, Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said the industry has been hampered “under the burden of outdated regulations written decades ago.”
He added that the United States “can’t sustainably return to the moon and beyond without partnerships with the commercial space industry, and this directive helps set that course in a much more timely and effective manner.”