This segment originally aired Feb. 22, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
Astronomers made big news last week when they announced the discovery of a nearby solar system with seven planets about the size of Earth. The news comes at a great time, as NASA’s space program is seeing a powerful resurgence under President Trump.
Trump has appointed former Rep. Robert Walker as space policy adviser, and he has an aggressive, business-type vision for NASA. Under Trump, missions are expected to become more deep-space–oriented, beginning with robots mining for resources such as Helium 3 on the moon. Walker foresees human lunar colonies as well as spaceships fueled by nuclear power to cut travel time to Mars from months to weeks.
John Slough, the astrophysicist credited with inventing the technology necessary for nuclear-powered spaceships, advises it would be a huge financial undertaking to create a functional model. VICE News correspondent Ravi Somaiya spoke to Walker, who maintains that, through partnerships with the commercial sector, the overall goal can and will be accomplished.
“We’re developing ways of doing things that are brand-new, that allow us to lead the world not only scientifically and technologically but also…to lead the world economically.”