Trump wants to send man back to the moon - and eventually Mars

Enlarge Image Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan holds an American flag on the moon in 1972.                  NASA

The last time USA astronauts visited the Moon was during the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s. "Today, we pledge that he will not be the last".

Mr Trump has signed a policy directive instructing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to "refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery".

"We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond".

The directive orders NASA "to lead an innovative space exploration program to send American astronauts back to the Moon, and eventually Mars", spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

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President Trump wants to send man back to the moon - and on to Mars. However, Space Policy Directive 1 is now only an empty order without the funds to back it up.

"This is the first step in a very long process", John Logsdon, founder and former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said in an interview. But the programme was shut down when Barack Obama became the president as he believed that Americans "have been there before" and that "there's a lot more of space to explore".

Nasa said in a statement that the new policy would scrap its mission to send humans to an asteroid.

In September, Trump nominated Representative Jim Bridenstine, a Republican from Oklahoma, to be the next NASA administrator.

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The new heavy-lift rocket that NASA is developing for deep-space missions - known as the Space Launch System - could serve as a core component of a moon trip. The Space Policy Directive 1 will "more effectively organize government, private industry, and worldwide efforts toward returning humans [to] the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars", agency officials said.

Both Trump and Pence further argued that investment in the space program would lead to increased job creation, innovation and military applications.

Pence said the order will "enhance our national security and our capacity to provide for the common defense of the people of the United States".

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