Trump Signs New Space Policy Directive To Send Americans To Moon, Mars

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President Trump on Monday ordered NASA to send astronauts back to the moon and then eventually to Mars, part of the administration's focus on manned space exploration.

Trump said the move "marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-time exploration".

The president signed the Space Policy Directive-1 on the 45th anniversary of the last crew mission to land on the moon, which was Apollo 17 lunar lander that touched down on the moon December 11, 1972.

"The moon will be a stepping-stone, a training ground, a venue to strengthen our commercial and worldwide partnerships as we refocus America's space program toward human space exploration".

The schedule didn't provide additional details about the event or the document, but a White House official later confirmed that the directive is linked to human space exploration policy.

"The President listened to the National Space Council's recommendations and he will change our nation's human spaceflight policy to help America become the driving force for the space industry, gain new knowledge from the cosmos, and spur incredible technology", Hogan continued.

"This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints - we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond".

President George W. Bush ordered a moon base to be built and for humans to live there for extended periods.

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"We're dreaming big", Trump said.

NASA said initial funding for the new policy would be included in its budget request for fiscal year 2019.

"Given its relative closeness, the moon in particular offers humans the best hope for long-term exploration and utilization", the statement said.

Earlier this year, China said it was making initial preparations to send crewed missions to the Moon.

Only 12 men have set foot on the Moon - all have been Americans.

"We're dreaming big", he added.

In approving the new policy, Trump abandoned what had been a goal of his predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, who in 2010 backed a plan to send humans to a near-earth asteroid.