by WorldTribune Staff, December 12, 2017
Americans will return to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972 and in the long-term will use the moon as a way-station for a journey to Mars, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Dec. 11.
Surrounded by members of the recently re-established National Space Council (NSC), active NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch and Peggy Whitson, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and retired astronaut Jack Schmitt, Trump signed a directive that he said “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.”
“Exactly 45 years ago, almost to the minute, Jack [Schmitt] become one of the last Americans to land on the moon,” Trump said. “Today, we pledge that he will not be the last.”
The directive “marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. 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.
Vice President Mike Pence, who serves as chairman of the NSC, also spoke at the signing.
“Mr. President, you’ve said that the pioneer spirit has always defined America,” Pence said. “And by your action today – with this clear vision [of] returning Americans to the moon, preparing to lead to Mars and beyond – you are ensuring, Mr. President, that America will lead in space in the future and for generations to come.”
NASA recently announced that the agency may build a facility called the Deep Space Gateway on the moon that could serve as a way station between the Earth and Mars.
In a separate statement, NASA officials said that the president’s directive also officially ends NASA’s Obama-era Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which would have sent robotic probes and then humans to an asteroid.
NASA said Trump’s directive will “more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans [to] the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.”