“We are restoring NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon, adding that the additional funding will enable the US to “return to Space in a BIG WAY!”
The US currently has no vessels capable of taking astronauts into orbit, let alone the moon or another planet. The Space Shuttle program was canceled by in 2011, and NASA has relied on Russia for trips to the International Space Station ever since.
Plans for manned launches using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule have hit a bump after the vessel exploded during a test on April 20. Details about the incident remain unknown, as NASA and SpaceX have reportedly worked hard to suppress any information from leaking to the general public.
Last week, Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos pitched cooperation with his space company Blue Origin as a way for NASA to meet that deadline. Meanwhile, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has spoken with enthusiasm about the prospect of setting up a base on the Moon and colonizing Mars – using his rockets, of course.
Trump’s interest in space has not been purely civilian, either. After months of hyping the idea of a ‘Space Force’ to defend US national interests in orbit and beyond, the president signed a decree in February it as a subsidiary of the US Air Force, rather than a separate branch of the military in its own right. International treaties dating back to the 1960s prohibit weaponization of space, but the Trump administration has scrapped numerous treaties over the past two years.