Donald Trump plans to send US astronauts back to moon | News | DW | 11.12.2017
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Donald Trump plans to send US astronauts back to moon

President Donald Trump has directed NASA to return astronauts to the moon, and eventually send them to Mars. He steered clear, however, of offering any specific details about the difficult issues of budget or timelines.

US President Donald Trump has signed a directive calling on NASA to return astronauts to the moon, something he said could eventually pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

"It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use," Trump said at the White House on Monday. "We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond."

Trump also noted space exploration was tied to other applications, "including a military application." 

The White House acknowledged that partnerships with other nations and private industry would be required. 

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the National Space Council, have previously vowed to restart moon exploration.

Few details about thorny issues such as budgets or a timeline have been put forth. NASA said it would include funding for the new policy in its 2019 budget. 

The US space budget has been slashed over the years. No American astronaut has been to the moon since 1972, and the agency has more recently focused on near-Earth missions.

Past presidents, including George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, also proposed new missions to the moon and Mars, but budget constraints hindered their plans.

Donald Trump holds up a toy astronaut (picture-alliance/dpa/E. Vucci/)

Trump's signing ceremony for the directive included former lunar astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jack Schmitt

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The Obama administration ultimately refocused attention on asteroid missions and an eventual mission to Mars by the 2030s.

'Time is running out'

Trump's plan was met with criticism on Monday. Technology website Ars Technica noted that under a status quo situation, "it is difficult to see NASA or its partner astronauts landing on the moon before 2030, presuming the next president sticks with this plan." 

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"Unless this administration is taking a second term for granted, time is running out for it to meaningfully change the course of the US spaceflight program," the website wrote.

Ars Technica added that "the next president could just as easily switch course away from the moon."

A Mars mission would be even more complicated. Sending humans some 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) to the red planet would be a major technological challenge and require massive funding over more than a decade.  

The journey would also pose health and mental problems for astronauts confined to small capsule in zero gravity for a long period of time.

The new US drive comes as China in June said it was making "preliminary" preparations to send a man to the moon. 

cw/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa)

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