The wonders of NASA — Mars rovers, astronaut Instagram feeds, audacious missions probing distant galactic mysteries — have long enthralled the American public. And, it turns out, the accomplishments have won the agency the public’s trust: Polls have consistently shown NASA to be the second-most trusted government institution, behind only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The public, however, probably has less appreciation for the work NASA has done on its home planet. NASA’s $2-billion-a-year earth-science program has long tracked global-scale environmental conditions on Earth, including climate change.
But with the election of Donald Trump, there was immediate concern — inside NASA and among the fans of its valued work on global warming — about the future of the agency’s earth-science program. Within hours of Trump’s acceptance speech on Nov. 9, an internal email from a senior official in the Earth Sciences division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center circulated within NASA acknowledging worry that “funding may now be exposed to severe reductions.”
The last month is not apt to have eased that alarm.