President Donald Trump appeared on Friday to back off on the goal his administration set just several months ago to put humans back on the moon by 2024.
Trump said in a tweet NASA should instead be focused on exploring Mars.
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“For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon — We did that 50 years ago,” Trump wrote. “They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!”
NASA and the National Space Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In March, Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the Space Council, announced the administration was accelerating its moon mission, seeking to send humans back to the lunar surface by 2024, four years ahead of the schedule previously set by NASA.
“Some will say it’s too hard, it’s too risky, it’s too expensive, but the same was said back in 1962,” Pence said in Huntsville, Ala., at the fifth meeting of the National Space Council — referring to the year when President John F. Kennedy gave his “we choose to go to the moon” speech.
“Now as then, the United States has a president who is a dreamer, who understands that this is a challenge that once again we are unwilling to postpone and one we intend to win again,” Pence said.
Just last month, Trump announced his administration was asking for an additional $1.6 billion in its fiscal 2020 budget request to accelerate the moon mission.
“Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars. I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” he wrote on Twitter.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said that going to the lunar surface is the best way to prepare for an eventual mission to Mars, because it will let astronauts learn how to survive off of Earth and use the resources of another body.
“When we go to Mars, we’re going to be there for at least two years,” Bridenstine told Congress in April. “So, we need to learn how to live and work in another world. The moon is the best place to prove those capabilities and technologies. The sooner we can achieve that objective, the sooner we can move on to Mars, and that’s ultimately the objective here.”