The US space programme has a new focus on an old destination. President Trump has directed NASA to focus its efforts on crewed missions to the moon before Mars
President Trump wants NASA to aim for the moon. On 11 December, the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 lunar landing, he signed a policy directive telling NASA to focus efforts on human exploration, with an eye towards getting back to the moon.
“This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint. We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond,” Trump said in a press conference preceding the signing.
Under President Obama, NASA’s main target for crewed missions was the Red Planet. It remains unclear how this new shift in focus will affect NASA’s timeline for an eventual mission to Mars.
Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence emphasised the importance of a strategic American military presence on the moon, with Pence stating that it will “enhance our national security and our capacity to provide for the common defense of the people of the United States of America.”
Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1) following a recommendation by the National Space Council, re-established this June after 24 years of inactivity and led by Pence. The details of this directive remain murky, but Pence has shown enthusiasm for partnering with international and commercial space firms.
Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation – a coalition of private space companies – said in a statement that SPD-1 “directs NASA to partner with the US commercial space industry to return Americans to the Moon.” The source of funding to carry out this directive has not been announced. The Apollo programme that first took astronauts to the moon cost NASA about $200 billion in today’s money, according to a 2009 review.
Read more: Elon Musk’s new plans for a moon base and a Mars mission by 2022
More on these topics: