President Trump says he wants to “top” President John F. Kennedy’s push for a mission to the moon by putting a man on Mars.
“We’re looking at Mars by the way, in case anybody hasn’t seen,” Trump told a laughing crowd at a Friends of Ireland lunch on Capitol Hill Thursday. “Trying to top him.”
“We’re going to get there,” the president continued. “It’s moving along pretty good. A lot of things have happened, Mike, having to do with that subject. Way ahead of schedule.”
During his nearly three years in office before he was assassinated in November, 1963, President Kennedy encouraged the U.S. to win the “space race” with the Soviet Union. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed the first two humans on the moon on July 20, 1969, six years after Kennedy’s death.
Trump has lately been touting his commitment to a Mars mission. Speaking to troops in California on Tuesday, he said, “Very soon we’re going to Mars,” before adding that, “You wouldn’t be going to Mars if my opponent won, that I can tell you. You wouldn’t even be thinking about it.”
Trump is pushing for a return to the moon before attempting a Mars mission, a plan outlined in his first space-policy directive. To that end, he re-established the National Space Council, which advises the president on space policy, at a December 11 signing ceremony that included Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
“The directive I’m signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” Trump said at the ceremony. “It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.”
Vice President Mike Pence, a key figure in the new space initiative, stressed the “pioneer spirit” of America and said the new projects will “ensure that America will lead in space in the future and for generations to come.”