Trump vowed on Monday, Dec. 11, that the United States will remain a leader in space exploration.
"We are the leader and we're going to stay the leader, and we're going to increase it many fold," he said in signing Space Policy Directive 1, which sets NASA up for a moon mission with an eye on going to Mars afterward.
The Space Race
Trump's statements come at a time when countries have largely stopped trying to further explore what's out there. Before the first astronauts landed on the moon in July 1969, there was this potent and frenzied "space race" occurring between countries who wanted to get to the moon first. But years after Apollo 11 finally landed, interest in space exploration had dwindled. Until now, humans have not ventured out farther.
China's Lunar Exploration Program
China, on the other hand, is seemingly laying the groundwork for its own space exploration. In June, China's space official said it was setting up "preliminary" preparations to send an astronaut to the moon, which is part of China's ambitious lunar mission.
What It Takes To Get To The Moon — And Mars
Going to the moon is easy. As Time points out, a lunar mission is easy to assemble: just get funding, a trained crew, a rocket and spacecraft, and launch. Not to mention that it's already been done before. Multiple times, in fact. But the trick is all that other stuff that comes before the exploration part. That includes securing money, and making sure the rocket and spacecraft are good to go.
Especially money. In March, Trump held a signing ceremony to call for a bump in NASA's budget to $19.5 billion. That seems extremely huge, yet not really.
In 1966, NASA received a budget of $5.9 billion, which when adjusted to 2017 dollars is a whopping $45.7 billion. That allowance represented 4.41 percent of the total federal budget; now, NASA's current share is merely 0.4 percent. So Trump wants NASA to go to the moon, and then Mars? Provide sufficient funds to execute both trips.
NASA said initial funding for Trump's new policy would be included in its budget request for 2019.
"Imagine the possibility waiting in those big beautiful stars if we dare to dream big. That's what our country is doing again, we're dreaming big," said Trump.