There were quite a lot of things missing from that Journey to Mars plan, though. NASA hadn’t yet started development on the whole spacecraft that will actually go to Mars, nor any sort of habitat for the future. It has been gathering ideas for building a Mars outpost, though.
Maybe that was for the best because the goalposts have changed yet again. Truth be told, it probably doesn’t change too much for now. The SLS and Orion will still be used for missions to the Moon, so their development will still continue. NASA is also looking into building a lunar space station, possibly with help from Russia.
But this commitment to put “boots on the Moon” is new. It means the Trump administration is telling NASA to actively focus on developing systems to land on the Moon. That’s not cheap, and it will surely delay any attempts to go to Mars.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Pence spouted the commonly misheld view that the US is not leading in space, and “must act” to its former glory. To say that is untrue is an understatement. NASA leads in space, no doubt.
“America will lead in space again,” said Pence, perhaps forgetting that no country can match NASA for planetary science. It leads on the International Space Station (ISS), has no competitor for astronomy, and will start launching humans again next year (thanks to Obama, mind), to name but a few things.
Anyway, the crux of it all is that NASA’s new goal is to go back to the Moon. Until Trump is no longer President, then it'll probably go somewhere else. Then somewhere else. Until Elon Musk colonizes Mars or something.
Oh to be a NASA employee.