Trump signs directive to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars

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NASA recently announced that for human astronauts, the path to Mars will include a stop at the moon, where the agency may build a facility now being called the Deep Space Gateway. Standing to Trump's left, just behind the president's signature, is Harrison Schmitt, one of the last two men to walk on the moon 45 years ago this month.

US President Donald Trump directed NASA on Monday to send Americans to the Moon for the first time in decades, a move he said would help prepare for a future Mars trip.

During a 2016 campaign event near NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Trump pledged to "free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistical agency for low Earth-orbit activities" and "instead refocus on space exploration".

"After 45 years, it is time to return humans to the region of the moon even as we look toward Mars", CEO Mary Lynne Dittmar said in the statement.

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

Simply getting back to the moon presents less of a logistical challenge for NASA, as they already sent 12 men to the lunar surface in the late 60s and early 70s. Eventually, NASA proposed having a robot haul a boulder from an asteroid and put it in orbit around the moon, where astronauts would rendezvous with the space rock.

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. We will engage the best and brightest across government and private industry and our partners across the world to reach new milestones in human achievement.

According to the new directive, the NASA administrator will "lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and global partners to enable human expansion across the Solar System and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities". This was a switch from the Bush-era NASA, which was working on Constellation, which planned to spend more time on the Moon as part of a longer-term plan to go to Mars.

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When we were lining up for the anthem, I looked over at Frank and said, 'Are you ready to go?' He said, 'I'm ready. James then added: "He can talk about his brand, talk about his sons, talk about basketball, talk about me".

Many other state agencies have their eyes on the Moon, as well as commercial companies like Moon Express, which plans to mine the lunar surface for water and minerals.

"Mr. President, you've said that the pioneer spirit has always defined America", Pence said.

Pence echoed the president's vow, saying "you're ensuring that America will lead in space once again".

The elder President Bush announces the Space Exploration Initiative in 1989 to return to the Moon and go to Mars. "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 today.

Mr Trump said America was the leader and would remain the leader.

"This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint", Trump said at the White House as he signed the new space policy directive.

"Since the beginning of his administration, President Trump has taken steps to refocus NASA on its core mission of space exploration", Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

The White House video below shows the signing ceremony.