American astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin walking on the moon on July 20, 1969 during Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong's reflection in the visor of the helmet. 
Photo by Apic/Getty

Why Trump suggested the Moon ‘is a part’ of Mars

Three weeks ago, Donald Trump was so eager to send Americans to the moon, the president updated the White House budget, requesting an additional $1.6 billion for NASA’s budget for a lunar mission.

It’s one of the reasons Trump raised a few eyebrows with a new tweet this afternoon.

“For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!”

Oh my.

The part of this that seems to be generating the most attention is the presidential assertion that Earth’s moon “is a part” of Mars. Having a little fun at the Republican’s expense, the DNC issued an official statement that read, “The moon is not part of Mars.”

In fairness, I think I know what Trump was clumsily trying to say: the mission to the moon and the mission to Mars may eventually be related. Administration officials have argued on multiple occasions that they envision an exploration model in which the United States – at some point in the future – uses Earth’s moon as a launch site for other space missions.

What I found weirder was Trump’s assertion that moon missions are somehow a passe goal – “We did that 50 years ago,” he wrote – and therefore NASA “should NOT be talking about going” there.

To put it mildly, this is a radical departure from everything the White House has said on the subject for quite a while.

As regular readers may recall, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech in April on “Space Policy Directive-1,” which is the formal name for Trump’s directive to NASA for lunar exploration. Pence said in his remarks that he’d learned, five minutes before reaching the podium, that officials “now have a plan” to return to the moon by 2024.

There was no actual plan. NASA had hoped to return to the moon by 2028, but that’s not fast enough for Trump, since he’ll leave office in January 2025 at the latest. NASA responded to the White House directive by “scrambling” to satisfy Trump’s request.

Those efforts, which were a long-shot anyway, haven’t gone especially well: six weeks after NASA hired Mark Sirangelo to oversee the mission, he resigned.

That was two weeks ago. Now, Trump doesn’t think NASA should even be “talking about going” to the moon.