US president revises space agency’s policy, undoing Obama’s concentration on Mars.
President Donald Trump signed a directive Monday for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to refocus on sending astronauts to the moon.
The policy is a shift from the space goals of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who pushed NASA to focus on sending humans to Mars.
The directive, officially titled Space Policy Directive-1, was signed near the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 moon landing, the last time humans visited the moon.
“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” Trump said upon signing it. “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use.”
Trump said the ultimate goal for NASA involves sending a manned mission to Mars, but he noted that putting more humans on the moon would be the first step. He also said an American presence on the moon would create jobs, improve national security and broadcast American leadership in space.
Vice President Mike Pence foreshadowed Space Policy Directive-1 in October following the first meeting of the resurrected National Space Council, an agency that was formed in the 1960s but was ended in 1993. Pence, who leads the council, is now crucial to guiding the space policy of the United States.
“Establishing a renewed American presence on the Moon is vital to achieve our strategic objectives and the objectives outlined by the National Space Council,” Pence said in a statement today.
He also highlighted the refocus on the moon as a driver of employment.
“We’ll see jobs created that we couldn’t even imagine could be created today,” he added.
Previous Republican presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush called for NASA to return to the moon, but the agency ran into funding problems. Obama ended the fixation on the moon and instead pivoted toward focusing on a manned mission to Mars.