Space enthusiasts were in for a shock when Donald Trump tweeted that the moon is a part of Mars and schooled National Aeronautical Space Agency (NASA) that it should scrap its lunar mission. In fact, Trump's latest assertions are strikingly converse to his earlier statement that he would like to see Americans land on the moon by 2024.
Just after concluding his Europe visit, Trump tweeted, "For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago." He further said that NASA should be rather focussed on a much bigger thing, including Mars (of which the moon is a part), defence and science.
The astronauts are yet to decipher on what exactly the US President meant when he called moon as a part of the Mars, though some are aligning it with the NASA's ambitions of setting up a space outpost in the moon that will send humans to Mars. Either way, Trump's remarks added to the confusion especially when his administration has urged the US Congress to increase the budget for the lunar mission as it plans to send humans to the moon by 2024, four years earlier than the proposed deadline of 2028.
On May 13, Trump had tweeted, "We are going back to the moon." Vice-President Mike Pence had laid out the lunar ambitions of the Trump government in October by saying, "Our determination is to see Americans back on the moon in the very near future."
The US government, in fact, sought a $20 billion budget to send US astronauts to the moon by 2024 under an accelerated programme, which was a key recommendation of newly appointed National Space Council led by Mike Pence.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine who has been appointed by Trump to take care of US moon landing mission said, "As @POTUS said, @NASA is using the Moon to send humans to Mars!."
What does space science say?
Even as the astronomy is clear that moon was formed due to the collision between Earth and the planet like object that resulted in the formation of debris called moon many years ago, the NASA did not come out clear after Trump's surprising remarks. The science holds that Mars which is the nearest planet to the Earth is exactly 140m miles away.
The NASA is, however, holding onto its programme of seeing a sustained human presence on Moon by 2024 which would further its ambitions of sending people to Mars by building a technology centre in the lunar space to explore more about the solar system.