President Donald Trump put the house group on edge at this time with a tweet that downplayed NASA’s plans to ship astronauts to the moon by 2024 as step one towards a sustainable lunar presence.
As an alternative, Trump framed the moon program — unveiled by Vice President Mike Pence amid a lot fanfare lower than three months in the past — as being merely a part of a much bigger push to Mars.
No less than that’s what he meant to say. The best way the tweet was phrased left itself open to all kinds of interpretations, together with an clearly misintended declare that the moon was a part of the Pink Planet:
For the entire cash we’re spending, NASA ought to NOT be speaking about going to the Moon – We did that 50 years in the past. They need to be targeted on the a lot larger issues we’re doing, together with Mars (of which the Moon is part), Protection and Science!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2019
Mockingly, Trump’s dismissal of lunar missions as one thing that was performed 50 years in the past echoed what his predecessor within the White Home, Barack Obama, stated when he determined to drop the Constellation back-to-the-moon program in 2010: “We’ve been there earlier than.”
At present’s presidential tweet got here amid deep discussions over how a lot it should price to speed up NASA’s moon exploration program, now often called Artemis, and make the 2024 deadline for placing the following man and the primary girl on the lunar floor.
For that motive, some analysts fearful that Artemis may be in hassle:
I'm listening to from a pair sources that performing White Home CoS Mick Mulvaney, presently on AF1 with Trump, could also be an inside opponent pushing towards the Artemis moon program.
— Tim Fernholz (@TimFernholz) June 7, 2019
House Coverage On-line’s Marcia Smith, in the meantime, pointed to hypothesis that the tweet may need been sparked by a Fox News interview throughout which NASA’s chief monetary officer was requested why NASA hasn’t gotten farther in house for the reason that days of Apollo, or a jesting suggestion made by Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins on CNN that Trump won’t “perceive that there is a planet Mars.”
In any case, it didn’t take lengthy for Trump administration officers — together with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine — to reframe Trump’s tweet:
A White Home official, talking on background: Our purpose has all the time been Mars. We’ve requested Congress for extra sources to get to the Moon by 2024, which can allow us to get to Mars roughly a decade after making a sustainable presence on the Moon.
— Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust) June 7, 2019
As @POTUS stated, @NASA is utilizing the Moon to ship people to Mars! Proper now, @MarsCuriosity and @NASAInSight are on Mars and can quickly be joined by the Mars 2020 rover and the Mars helicopter. pic.twitter.com/Br1sTYfNzd
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) June 7, 2019
Trump’s moon tweet was simply one among a sequence of outbursts on topics starting from immigration and commerce to congressional investigations, and he quickly moved on to hailing the inventory market’s efficiency this week (after a sequence of downward-trending weeks). However his off-the-cuff recommendation to cease speaking in regards to the moon could make issues slightly tough for the witnesses at subsequent Tuesday’s congressional listening to on house science — and for Bridenstine and different NASA officers who’re making an attempt to construct help for the Artemis program amongst congressional skeptics.