NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, on the new lunar program ‘Artemis’. It will face a funding fight this year that could affect the 2024 timeline. USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – To the moon?
Nope, President Donald Trump says.
Trump tweeted Friday that NASA should forget about going back to the moon and should focus on other things, like Mars.
“For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon – We did that 50 years ago,” he 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!”
Trump’s comments came one day after NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the agency won’t be able to meet a 2024 deadline to land astronauts on the moon unless Congress approves the Trump administration’s request for an additional $1.6 billion in next year’s budget.
“It takes this off the table,” Bridenstine told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview Thursday. Without the extra funding, “we’re going to be back looking at 2028.”
It was the NASA chief’s strongest statement to date that the fate of a lunar return five years from now depends almost entirely on congressional action in the coming months. America’s last walk on the moon was in 1972.
Trump’s tweet appeared to undercut Vice President Mike Pence, who has been spearheading the administration’s lunar policy as head of the National Space Council.
“We will return Americans astronauts to the moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said at the October 2017 inaugural meeting of the council, which Trump revived.
Trump last month tweeted his full support for a moon mission, saying the U.S. was going to “return to space in a BIG WAY!”
In March, Pence announced an ambitious plan to accelerate a return to the lunar surface from 2028 to 2024. Pence said the president had directed NASA to meet the goal “by any means necessary.”
Speaking at a screening of Apollo 11 last month, Pence emphasized that it’s “the policy of the United States that we will return to the moon within the next five years, and the first woman and the next man on the moon will be an American.”
“Paging VP Pence,” Brian McKeon, a former Obama administration official, tweeted in response to Trump’s tweet.
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