Trump unhappy with Nasa’s new Moon mission, calls moon part of Mars: There are probably some frantic emails flying between NASA headquarters and the White House right now. The American President Donald Trump on Friday criticized NASA for aiming to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024 and urged the space agency to focus instead on “much bigger” initiatives like going to Mars, undercutting his previous support for the lunar initiative.
In a tweet today (June 7), President Donald Trump appeared to signal a lack of support for NASA’s current push to put people on the moon in the 2020s — a push that he officially kicked off in December 2017 with the signing of Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1) and backed with a proposed funding increase just last month.
The president tweeted, “For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon — We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!”
SPD-1 directs NASA to establish a long-term, sustainable presence on and around the moon, and to use the experience gained in this effort to reach the ultimate human-spaceflight destination: Mars. So, the somewhat confusing latter part of the president’s tweet — calling the moon a part of Mars — may be a reference to the horizon goal laid out in SPD-1.
Trump’s statement, tweeted from Air Force One as he returned from Europe, appeared at odds with his administration’s recent push to return humans to the lunar surface by 2024 “by any means necessary,” five years sooner than the previous goal of 2028.
NASA plans to build a space outpost in lunar orbit that can relay astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024, part of a broader initiative to use the moon as a staging ground for eventual missions to Mars.
Last month, Trump proposed giving NASA an extra $1.6 billion in 2020 to help achieve this ambitious goal. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Trump was only reaffirming NASA’s space plan. “As @POTUS said, @NASA is using the Moon to send humans to Mars!, he said on Friday in a tweet referring to the President of the United States.
It’s unclear at the moment if today’s tweet represents a substantial shift in thinking at the White House about NASA’s goals and direction. And this ambiguity has spurred some in the spaceflight community to call on the president to explain fully what he means.
“Success in human spaceflight requires consistency and clarity in national policy. The White House needs to clarify its expectations so that NASA can achieve great feats of science and exploration,” representatives of the nonprofit Planetary Society, which is led by former TV “Science Guy” Bill Nye, tweeted this afternoon.