The White House ‘Space Policy Directive 1, ‘ which Trump signed on Monday, calls for NASA to work with “private sector partners” to return USA astronauts to the surface of the moon. Trump’s policy returns NASA’s attention to the Moon, hearkening back to the Vision for Space Exploration announced by President George W. Bush in 2004.
A number of well-known personalities were present at the signing which included: Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon; Senator Harrison Schmitt, the second to last astronaut to leave the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission; Peggy Whitson, who holds the record for the most numbers of days in space for any American astronaut; and Christina Koch, a member of the United States astronaut class of 2013.
President Trump signed a policy directive Monday confirming that the moon should be the next destination for astronauts.
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.
“We will return American astronauts to the Moon”, Pence said at the time, “not only to leave behind footprints and flags but [also] to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond”. 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.
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”.
Like the Bush policy, the new policy emphasizes the Moon as a jumping-off point for Mars and beyond. “Going back to the moon as the precursor to further exploration will enable NASA to test new systems and equipment critical for future missions, like the human exploration of Mars”.
But the Obama policy never gained widespread support and Trump acted early on to cancel proposed missions to capture a piece of an asteroid and return it to the vicinity of the moon for hands-on study as a stepping stone of sorts to eventual Mars flights.
But what’s still lacking is the funds needed to turn this mission to the Moon into a reality.
Both the president and the vice president said today that NASA’s focus on its human spaceflight program will help create jobs for the country, and both men briefly mentioned the defense and military applications of the space program. “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.
Pence seconded the national security aspect, adding that pursuing these objectives would enhance USA national security and its capacity to provide for the common defense of its citizens. “We’ll also ensure, lastly, that the rules and values of space exploration are written with American leadership and American values”.