President Donald Trump signed his administration’s first space policy directive today (Dec. 11), which formally directs NASA to focus on returning humans to the moon.
President Trump signed the order during a ceremony in the Oval Office, surrounded by members of the recently re-established National Space Council (NSC).
As well as active NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch and Peggy Whitson, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and retired astronaut Jack Schmitt, who flew to the moon on the Apollo 17 mission.
“The directive I’m signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” Trump said during the ceremony.
“It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use.”
This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.”
Space Policy Directive 1 makes official a recommendation approved by the NSC in October. Vice President Mike Pence, who serves as chairman of the NSC, also spoke at the signing.
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 currently being called the Deep Space Gateway.
That structure could serve as a kind of way station between the Earth and the Red Planet.
Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said he thinks the new directive could provide “a sense of urgency” to NASA’s spaceflight pursuits.
He noted that there are “a lot of people that want to help [NASA]” reach those goals, including international space partners and commercial space partners in the U.S.A.
In a separate statement, NASA officials said that the directive also officially ends NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), which would have sent robotic probes and then humans to an asteroid.
The Space Policy Directive 1 will “more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward returning humans [to] the Moon, and will lay the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars,” agency officials said.
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.
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