US President Donald Trump has announced an additional $1.6 billion in funding for NASA in order to bankroll American return to space “in a big way,” specifically naming the Moon and Mars as targets.
“We are restoring NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon, adding that the additional funding will enable the US to “return to Space in a BIG WAY!”
The US currently has no vessels capable of taking astronauts into orbit, let alone the moon or another planet. The Space Shuttle program was canceled by in 2011, and NASA has relied on Russia for trips to the International Space Station ever since.
Plans for manned launches using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule have hit a bump after the vessel exploded during a test on April 20. Details about the incident remain unknown, as NASA and SpaceX have reportedly worked hard to suppress any information from leaking to the general public.
The Trump administration’s space ambitions have been in the works for a while, with Vice President Mike Pence recently announcing plans to build a station in lunar orbit and put US astronauts on the Moon by 2024.
Last week, Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos pitched cooperation with his space company Blue Origin as a way for NASA to meet that deadline. Meanwhile, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has spoken with enthusiasm about the prospect of setting up a base on the Moon and colonizing Mars – using his rockets, of course.