Deviating from his previous lunar-landing policy, President Donald Trump announced Friday that space efforts made by NASA should steer clear of the Moon and instead head toward the outer reaches of space, “including Mars (of which the Moon is a part)".
The unprovoked tweet, which appears to be commenting on his administration’s space platform, stumped the internet on Friday and garnered a few facetious comments from around the globe and an onslaught of guffawed Twitter comments. (In case you were wondering, the Moon is not a part of Mars. In fact, the red planet has two of its own moons named Phobos and Deimos.)
The Tweet comes just hours after NASA announced it will be taking tourists to the International Space Station in a new initiative to bring commercial business opportunities to low-Earth orbit – and on the same day that Trump-appointed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told audience members at the International Space Development Conference that “the very first policy directive of the President said, ‘we’re going to go back to the moon.’”
When the president said that the Moon “is a part” of Mars, he may have been referring to the connection between the two under NASA’s Explore Moon to Mars Mission, of which NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said would be accelerated by Trump to “return to the Moon and to land humans on the surface again by 2024".
“We will go with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than was ever thought possible,” he said at the time. “This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.”
The mission has since generated a lot of hype. So much, in fact, that less than a month ago the president even proposed spending an extra $1.6 billion to ensure its success. Rewind to March, when Vice President Mike Pence said that “President Trump and our entire administration believe that it is time to push onward to new horizons and new destinations.”
“And as President Trump said, we will return ‘American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use,’ Pence said in Alabama last March. “And as he said, not only to, quote, ‘plant our flag and leave our footprint[s],” but to “establish a foundation [on the Moon] for an eventual mission to Mars.’”
So, what’s changed? That isn’t entirely clear. The White House has not yet responded to IFLScience's request for a statement on their future plans.