WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump issued a directive on Monday that set NASA the goal of establishing a base on the moon, visited by humans for the last time in 1972, as a lead-up to the first manned mission to Mars.
“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery. It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use,” Trump said at a White House ceremony with reference to the last moonwalk by members of the Apollo 17 crew.
Trump said that “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.”
“Imagine the possibility waiting in those big beautiful stars if we dare to dream big. That’s what our country is doing again, we’re dreaming big,” the president said.
The US president was accompanied at the event by the acting NASA administrator, Robert Lightfoot, by astronaut Peggy Whitson, the first woman commander of the International Space Station, and by Vice President Mike Pence.
The last time the United States sent a manned mission outside of terrestrial orbit was in 1972 on Apollo 17, from which two of its astronauts, Eugene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, undertook three walks on the surface of the moon.
Schmitt himself, now age 85, was also present at the event, 45 years after his moonwalks.