Trump’s Budget Proposal:

No to Space Exploration, Yes to Space Wars

February 26, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


The budget proposal Donald Trump submitted to Congress contains massive cuts in funding for scientific and medical research. One of the most far reaching of these is the cancellation of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). As the New York Times wrote, this project, 20 years in the making, was designed to “seek an answer to the most burning, baffling question in astronomy—and perhaps elucidate the fate of the universe ... [and] investigate the mysterious force dubbed dark energy that is speeding up the expansion of the universe and search out planets around other stars.”

WFIRST was to have been NASA’s project of the decade for the 2020s, with a proposed launch in the middle of the decade, budgeted for an estimated $3.2 billion. Studies of supernovas—exploding stars—have indicated that the universe’s expansion has been speeding up over time. The hypothesis is that there is a form of energy that is behind this accelerating expansion, working like the opposite of gravity. But little is understood about this “dark energy,” and scientists think that humanity’s understanding of physics and even the ultimate fate of the universe depends on knowing more about the actual nature of this dark energy. Frank Wilczek, a Nobel Prize winner from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that dark energy “is the most mysterious fact in all of physical science, the fact with the greatest potential to rock the foundations.”

WFIRST has been intended to help unlock that mystery. It would consist of a telescope with a wide field of view that could sweep vast areas of space looking for supernovas. It would reach deep into the cosmos, and also be equipped with a “coronagraph” that would enable it to block light from distant stars so that planets near them could be seen. It has the potential to contribute greatly to advancing scientific understanding of the universe for all of humanity.

Meeting the Needs of Capitalism-Imperialism, Not Humanity

In the U.S., the social wealth allotted to conduct scientific research is driven most fundamentally by the needs and goals of the capitalist-imperialist system and its rulers. These needs do not correspond to the interests of humanity; in fact, they are in fundamental antagonism to those interests. An expression of this is that proposals for scientific research are often twisted to conform to military standards. Developing ever more lethal weaponry is central to how science and technology are pursued and applied in this country.

The utilization of science to serve the military has gotten significantly worse with the rise to power of the fascist Trump/Pence regime. Opposition to science and to the scientific method itself is a cornerstone of the Trump/Pence regime. These fascists invent “alternative facts.” The Trump/Pence cabal is stuffed with fundamentalist Christian lunatics who think dinosaurs walked the Earth at the same time as humans, the Earth was created in seven days, climate change is not caused by human activity, and evolution—one of the most thoroughly proven scientific theories—is false.

They are moving to drastically cut funding for scientific research and study. Trump’s budget proposal slashes hundreds of millions of dollars from climate and renewable energy research across a range of federal agencies and departments. Specifically regarding WFIRST, the proposal reads, “Given competing priorities at NASA, and budget constraints, developing another large space telescope ... is not a priority for the administration. The budget proposes to terminate WFIRST and redirect existing funds to other priorities of the science community....”

These “other priorities” are, first and foremost, the military. Trump has long promised a huge increase in military spending, and the budget he recently presented to Congress features just that. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Trump’s budget “would increase Pentagon accounts for weapons, troops, training and for nuclear arms programs run by the Energy Department by more than $74 billion, a 10% increase over current spending levels.”

Developing the U.S. capacity to wage war in space is central to the fascist plans to wage and prevail in war against global rivals. “Defense” Secretary James Mattis recently told a Washington, DC, conference, “Space is like any other domain of war.... Military uses of space are emerging. During a conflict, attacks against our critical defense, government, and economic infrastructure must be anticipated.” Mattis then threatened any government that may challenge the U.S. in space: “Don’t try it.”

Trump’s complete budget has yet to be voted on by Congress. It is possible that WFIRST will not be slashed, as the Trump/Pence regime proposes. But it is certain that there will be massive cuts for scientific research in general, and that much of what remains will be channeled towards research and development for the military.

The Planet Needs Revolution

WFIRST is a project that has the exhilarating potential to expand human understanding, reach into almost unfathomably remote reaches of the universe, and send back images of astonishing splendor, clarity, and scope. In its place, Trump would develop military satellites that serve the dominance of a criminal system. A system preparing to wage wars that can turn the planet into an inferno of death and destruction, a system that has already created a cascading series of environmental catastrophes. A system that needs to be overthrown through revolution, so humanity can get to a whole other place.



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