Trump directs NASA to send astronauts back to moon and Mars

Donald Trump with an astronaut toy at the White House

Donald Trump with an astronaut toy at the White House Credit CARLOS BARRIA Reuters

During a signing ceremony, Mr Trump said: "We are the leader and we're going to stay the leader, and we're going to increase it many fold".

The event will coincide with the 45th anniversary of the last crewed mission - Apollo 17 - to land on the moon.

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

President Trump has signed Space Policy Directive 1, which states that NASA must go back to the Moon and eventually send astronauts to Mars as well.

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

"The directive I'm signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery", Trump said during the ceremony. Eastern "signing ceremony for Space Policy Directive 1".

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

"Under a Trump administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars", he said.

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Echoing astronaut Neil Armstrong's first words upon stepping foot on the moon's surface in 1969, the president called the directive - which codifies instructions that NASA "return American astronauts to the moon" as "national policy", according to Vice President Mike Pence - a "giant step" toward an "inspiring future". NASA said it would include funding for the new policy in its 2019 budget. The Apollo 17 lunar lander touched down on the moon on December 11, 1972.

Gidley added that Trump's decision is based on recommendations from the National Space Council, which is chaired by Vice President Pence.

Trump's announcement essentially revives goals that former President George W. Bush announced in 2004.

"Imagine the possibility waiting in those big lovely stars if we dare to dream big".

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Under the directive, the government is also expected to work closely with other nations and private industry.

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