U.S. President Donald Trump signed a law that said manned missions to deep space, including to Mars, would be the U.S. space agency’s main goal in the decades to come, while also authorizing $19.5 billion in spending for NASA.
According to the text - adopted by a rare unanimous vote in the Senate and House of Representatives - NASA
will work toward the goal of “a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.”
The law also highlights the importance of the deep space capsule Orion, which is under development and aims to carry humans further into space than any spaceship ever has.
Orion will be launched atop the “Space Launch System” (SLS), which the space agency has described as the most powerful rocket ever built.
NASA “shall continue the development of the fully integrated Space Launch System, including an upper stage needed to go beyond low-Earth orbit, in order to safely enable human space exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond over the course of the next century,” said the text.
This law reaffirms “our national commitment to the core mission of NASA,” Trump said, signing the text in the presence of numerous elected officials including former Republican rivals, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
He saluted the “heroic role” of U.S. astronauts over the last several decades, and called for continued partnerships between NASA
and the private sector in the realm of space exploration.
“For almost six decades, NASA’s work has inspired millions and millions of Americans to imagine distant worlds and a better future right here on earth,” Trump said. “I’m delighted to sign this bill. It’s been a long time since a bill like this has been signed, reaffirming our commitment to the core mission of NASA: human space exploration, space science and technology.”
It is the first time in seven years that there has been an authorization bill for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, also known as NASA, The Associated Press quoted Cruz, a chief sponsor of the bill, as saying.
Last week, Trump sent Congress a budget proposal that would authorize $19.1 billion in agency spending next year. Congress appropriates funding for all government departments and agencies.
Former president Barack Obama also hailed these industry-government partnerships, and said in October last year, just months before leaving office, that the United States had “set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth.”
Experts say that sending people to live on the Red Planet, which lies on average some 225 million kilometers away from Earth, will take immense amounts of technological advances and cash.
When Trump invited Vice President Mike Pence to speak, Pence suggested that former astronaut and Sen. Bill Nelson be allowed to say a few words.
“He’s a Democrat. I wasn’t going to let him speak,” Trump quipped, to laughter.
Nelson did say a few words, praising the bill for putting the agency on a “dual track” with commercial companies making roundtrips to the International Space Station and NASA
continuing to explore the universe.