Trump charts Nasa space flight: Moon first, then Mars

President Trump Send NASA Back To Moon 13122017

"We are the leader and we're going to stay the leader, and we're going to increase it many fold", Mr Trump said on Monday in signing "Space Policy Directive 1" that establishes a foundation for a mission to the moon with an eye on going to Mars.

NASA says that the new policy calls for Robert Lightfoot, its acting administrator, to "lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and global partners" to explore the solar system.

The goal is to more effectively organise government, private industry and global efforts to return humans to the moon and lay the foundations for human exploration of Mars.

Astronauts on the International Space Station are only hours away from Earth, but the "proving ground" near the moon will be days away, a natural stepping stone to a Mars mission which will be months away. Only 12 men have set foot on the moon, all have been Americans.

The ceremony also featured a 3.8 billion-year-old moon rock collected by Mr Schmitt's Apollo 17 mission in 1972. "It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use", Trump said at the White House. Nevertheless, the announcement was welcomed by NASA's Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, who said the agency "looks forward to supporting the president's directive" and "strategically aligning our work to return humans to the Moon, travel to Mars and opening the deeper solar system beyond".

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Past presidents, including George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, have also proposed returning to the moon and missions to Mars, Budget constraints derailed their plans.

In 2009, then president Barack Obama deemed it too costly and repetitive of missions already achieved, and canceled the program in order to focus on reaching Mars by the 2030s.

"The directive I am signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery", Trump said in a separate NASA news release.

A White House statement acknowledged that partnerships with other nations and private industry could well be on the cards. "And at the Council's inaugural meeting in October, we unanimously approved a recommendation to instruct NASA to return American astronauts to the moon, and from there to lay a foundation for a mission to Mars", Pence said.

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