The Trump administration will direct NASA to land humans on the Moon and establish a presence on the lunar surface before sending astronauts to the Red Planet and beyond, US Vice President Mike Pence has said. Pence made the administration’s intentions known in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, as well as a speech he gave during the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council — a newly resurrected executive group aimed at guiding the US space agenda, The Verge reported on Thursday. Also Read - High-speed solar storm to hit Earth today, impact phone signals: NASA warnsAlso Read - NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter uses same chip as Samsung Galaxy S5, OnePlus One
“We will return NASA astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags but to build the foundation, we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” he told reporters at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Also Read - NASA Perseverance Mars rover uses 1998 iMac processor with just one upgrade
Pence made it clear that space is a national priority, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said in a statement after the first meeting of the Council. “The vice president also announced a call for renewed U.S. leadership in space – with a recommendation to the president that NASA help leads and shape the way forward,” Lightfoot said. ALSO READ: NASA delays launch of James Webb Space Telescope to 2019
“Specifically, NASA has been directed to develop a plan for an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system, returning humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations,” Lightfoot added. ALSO READ: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveils plan to reach Mars by 2022
The Council acknowledged the strategic importance of cis-lunar space — the region around the Moon — which will serve as a proving ground for missions to Mars and beyond, Lightfoot added.