How the White House plans a return to the Moon during Trump’s presidency

Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence shakes hands with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Thursday. (credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The Trump administration has established NASA’s main human spaceflight goal as a sustainable human return to the Moon, with eventual human missions to Mars. During what amounted to a pep talk at Johnson Space Center in Houston on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated his commitment to this goal.

“We’re also renewing our national commitment to discovery and to exploration and to write the next great chapter of our nation’s journey into space,” Pence said. “NASA will awe the world with our daring heroes.”

Unfortunately for presidents who serve at most two four-year terms, government spaceflight during the modern era moves at a glacial pace. No astronauts will walk on Mars during Trump’s presidency or even on the Moon. Past presidents with ambitions for the Moon, Mars, or asteroids have faced similar conundrums because it takes so long to arrange funding for these plans, finalize designs, build and test, and finally to fly. Long before astronauts take flight, a new administration moves into the White House.

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