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Peter Thiel pushes for commercial space flight in Trump's NASA

Thiel has convinced the new administration to add pro-commercial space personnel to NASA's "landing team."
Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon
December 21, 2016
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Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Bloomberg

Peter Thiel is using his position in Trump's transition team to make sure commercial space grows even further under the new administration. A few weeks ago, the President-Elect named the first members of NASA's "landing team," who all seemed to favor a space agency that builds its own spacecraft and rockets with legacy government contractors like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. According to The Wall Street Journal, though, Thiel "argued forcefully" for private space companies' place in Trump's NASA, essentially acting as the spokesperson for SpaceX's Elon Musk and Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos who share his concerns.

Thiel's efforts (with help from Newt Gingrich and former Republican Congressman Robert Walker) didn't go to waste: ex-NASA official Charles Miller, a proponent of commercial space, has just been given a seat in Trump's landing team. WSJ says the incoming administration is also expected to bring in other pro-private space personnel. The names floating around include Alan Lindenmoyer, the former chief of NASA's commercial space taxi program, and Alan Stern, head of the New Horizons mission and chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

That said, not everyone's happy with this development. The government's legacy contractors are reportedly accusing Thiel and Musk of pushing for commercial space for their own financial gain. Thiel, one of Musk's PayPal co-founders, was one of SpaceX's earliest investors. WSJ clarifies that this landing team won't exactly be in charge of running NASA under the Trump administration, so it could still go either way. However, they can exert their influence, help recruit like-minded personnel and even stay on to make decisions for the space agency.

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