NASA praises Trump’s ‘Moon to Mars’ budget despite $500m cut | Science & Tech News

NASA has said President Trump’s budget for the agency is “one of the strongest on record” as it plans a new lunar outpost – despite a significant cut to its overall funding.

The proposed budget is $500m (£380m) less than last year but still offers $21bn (£16bn) to “continue building the key components of the exploration campaign that will send astronauts to the moon and beyond”.

These include a new heavy-lift rocket as well as a “Lunar Gateway” outpost which will be orbiting the moon by the mid 2020s, and lunar landers to deliver cargo there by the late 2020s.

NASA's plans to return to the Moon and go on to Mars
NASA’s plans to return to the moon and go to Mars

The budget – for the fiscal year 2020 – also provides money to work towards a manned mission to the moon by 2028.

NASA flew six manned missions to the surface of the moon, beginning with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in July 1969, up to Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt in December 1972.

NASA’s administrator – and Trump appointee – Jim Bridenstine welcomed the budget announcement.

“If there’s one thing to take away from today’s moon to Mars event, it is that NASA is on the cusp of accomplishing more than we’ve ever been able to accomplish before,” said Mr Bridenstine

“We will explore, discover and inspire, and all of humanity will benefit from our efforts,” he added.

Much of the cost of the missions is being found in cuts to Earth science missions, including NASA’s research on climate change.

Mr Bridenstine was a controversial choice for his job due to his criticism of the agency’s spending on climate science and lack of relevant experience.

The US Senate confirmed his appointment by a vote of 50-49.

The budget is designed to meet the Space Policy Directive-1, signed by Donald Trump in December 2017, which directed the agency to renew its physical space exploration efforts.

President Trump signs 'Space Policy Directive 1' in December 2017
President Trump signed ‘Space Policy Directive 1’ in December 2017

In order to meet the president’s call for a sustainable space programme, NASA submitted a plan to Congress a few weeks ago for its National Space Exploration Campaign.

The campaign “calls for human and robotic exploration missions to expand the frontiers of human experience and scientific discovery of the natural phenomena of Earth, other worlds and the cosmos”.

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