Does Biden’s space agenda pick up where Trump’s left off?

Source: Unsplash/ NASA

Nigel Huckle

The narrative that domestic issues would overwhelm the Biden administration’s first year could not be further from the truth… or further from Earth for that matter.

Fresh off NASA’s successful fourth flight of its Mars helicopter Ingenuity, it was announced on 2 May that US President Joe Biden would be continuing the Trump administration-revived National Space Council. Vice President Kamala Harris, who will act as its chairwoman, tweeted “In America, when we shoot for the moon, we plant our flag on it.” Shortly afterwards, former US Senator from Florida Bill Nelson was sworn in as NASA’s 14th Administrator. He subsequently named Janet Petro the first woman director of the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and Vanessa Wyche the first woman of colour director of the Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

The embers of American space policy are quietly burning behind the backdrop of President Biden’s economic recovery agenda and his transatlantic diplomacy surge. And while Biden gratuitously took his red pen to much of his predecessor’s policy programs, experts are breathing a sigh of relief that American space policy appears to have some forward continuity. And for good reason - there is much to accomplish in the space policy realm.

Biden’s inauguration was preceded by speculation as to whether he would pursue a space policy, and if so, where exactly he would direct it. The first points to assess are where Biden’s policies converge with those of his predecessor. Both on a manned mission to the Moon and the future of the US Space Force, it appears Trump’s space aspirations will be carried onward. But it is just as crucial to analyse where Biden’s approach will diverge: namely, a much clearer focus on combatting climate change.

Stability From One Administration to the Next

A trip to the Moon

In February it was confirmed by White House press secretary Jen Psaki that Biden remains committed to the Trump-championed Artemis program, which seeks to land the first woman and person of colour on the moon. The original National Space Policy, released by the Trump administration in December 2020, sought to complete the