According the the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, President Trump is sending astronauts back to the moon. There was even a new Space Policy Directive (the first one of its kind) to make it all official. To hear Vice-president Pence tell it, “under President Trump’s leadership, America will lead in space once again on all fronts.” That sounds exciting, and might actually be exciting, were it not for a couple of details, noted in Secrecy News. It turns out that Trump simply reused a 14-page document put out by the Obama administration and only changed one paragraph of it (that’s the part about the moon). Also, that there is no funding for this grand adventure. So, I’m not sure how the astronauts will get back there. Maybe it’s just as well–I think if they do find some cash, they should give some new astronauts a turn. It has to be a hard field to break in to. Right now, it seems as if all the new ones get sent to Kazakhstan (Spaceflight Now, NPR). Even if the US doesn’t lead everyone in space, you’d think they could beat out Kazakhstan.
And, speaking of U.S. national agencies doing spacey things, POLITICO and the New York Times just reported that the Department of Defense recently had (and perhaps still has) an Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program to investigate Unidentified Flying Objects. A highlight in the coverage (repeated in the Chicago Tribune, NPR, and covered further in the NYT) was a 2004 incident, caught on video, of two pilots in F/A-18F Super Hornets following a UFO. It’s not that this is the first report, or even video, of this kind, but it seems to be a first to come vetted through an official agency and given credibility in mainstream media sources. But reports of unexplained somethings flying with military aircraft are not new. In fact, they are probably as old as aviation. WWII pilots from several countries reported such phenomena, which American pilots termed “foo fighters.” These were orange balls of light that would fly with the planes for while before speeding away. Where did they go? Maybe the astronauts will find out when they go back to the moon.