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Jeff Bezos and Alan Boyle
Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos chats with GeekWire’s Alan Boyle at the 2016 Space Symposium in Colorado, with a picture of Blue Origin’s New Shepard passenger capsule displayed in the background. (Tom Kimmell Photography / Courtesy of the Space Foundation)

What should Donald Trump have NASA do? Today Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos voiced his support for the idea that the space agency should help build a “highway in the sky” analogous to the interstate highway system that President Dwight Eisenhower ramped up in the 1950s.

The backing came in the form of an eight-word tweet, accompanied by a link to an article by Howard Bloom appearing in Salon (and as a guest blog posting on Scientific American’s website as well).

Bloom, who made a name for himself as a music industry publicist in the ’70s and ’80s, is now an advocate for space commercialization and the founder of the Space Development Sterring Committee.

It’s rare that Bezos tweets at all, but Bloom’s posting – and Bezos’ endorsement – are notable for several other reasons:

  • Bloom argues that, under Trump, NASA should “get out of the rocket business” and focus on elements of space infrastructure such as in-space refueling depots, space habitats, off-world fuel and oxygen production facilities and space tugs.
  • Bloom wants to see NASA scrap its heavy-lift Space Launch System, and turn instead to commercial rocket providers such as SpaceX and Bezos’ own rocket venture, Blue Origin.
  • Bezos has voiced an interest in building space infrastructure several times over the past couple of years – most notably last October, when he compared the task to the groundwork that gave rise to in the 1990s. “I’m using my Amazon winnings to do a new piece of heavy-lifting infrastructure,” he said.
  • Bezos and other tech industry leaders took part in a summit meeting with Trump last month, and afterward the Amazon CEO said he “shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars, which would create a huge number of jobs across the whole country, in all sectors, not just tech — agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing — everywhere.”
  • The Trump transition team is still in flux when it comes to space policy, but last week The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., appears to be the leading candidate to become NASA’s administrator. Bridenstine, a former fighter pilot (and rocket racer), is a strong proponent of commercializing space operations and putting a permanent base on the moon.
  • Bezos has hinted that Blue Origin is working on a heavy-lift rocket that’s capable of taking on moon missions, dubbed New Armstrong. And yes, it’s named after the late Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the lunar surface.

What does all this add up to? Maybe not much more than eight words – or maybe a whole new perspective on NASA’s human spaceflight program. Let’s see what happens once the new administration fills out its space policy team, which will most likely be led by Vice President Mike Pence.

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