Donald Trump in baffling moon tweet (Image: GETTY)
The US President signalling this lack of support for NASA’s current push to put people on the moon in the 2020s will come as a shock to both NASA and many space enthusiasts. Mr Trump had officially kicked off a new mission to put Americans back on the moon in December 2017 with the signing of Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1) and backed with a proposed funding increase just last month. But, on Friday Donald Trump appeared to contradict his own policy decision, he tweeted: “For all of the money we are spending, NASA should not be talking about going to the Moon.
“We did that 50 years ago.
“They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars of which the Moon is a part.
“Defence and Science!”
The SPD-1 plan directs NASA to establish a long-term, sustainable presence on and around the moon, and to use the experience gained in this effort to reach the ultimate human spaceflight destination, Mars.
The planned Nasa manned moon orbiter (Image: NASA)
So, the somewhat confusing latter part of the president’s tweet, calling the moon a part of Mars, may be a reference to the horizon goal laid out in SPD-1.
NASA has organised its crewed lunar plans into a program called Artemis, which includes the construction of a small, moon-orbiting space station known as the Gateway.
The space agency initially targeted the late 2020s for the first crewed lunar landing since the end of the Apollo era, but the timeline was recently moved up significantly.
In March, Vice President Mike Pence instructed NASA to make it happen by 2024.
Nasa’s plans for the moon and Mars missions (Image: GETTY)
Last month, Trump proposed giving NASA an extra $1.6 billion (£1.2 billion) in 2020 to help achieve this ambitious goal.
The 2024 landing is set to take place near the moon’s south pole, where water ice appears to be common on the floors of permanently shadowed craters, and will involve at least one woman, NASA officials have said.
To date, 12 people have walked on the moon, as part of NASA’s Apollo program.
All of them were men.
It’s unclear at the moment if today’s tweet represents a substantial shift in thinking at the White House about NASA’s goals and direction.
And this ambiguity has spurred some in the spaceflight community to call on the president to explain fully what he means.