“Get astronauts to Mars while I’m President,” Trump tells Nasa
Image credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
In a call to the International Space Station (ISS), US President Donald Trump congratulated the American astronauts on their achievements, and instructed that Nasa send humans to Mars ahead of schedule.
The video call, linking the Oval Office to the ISS, was intended as a opportunity to congratulate astronaut Peggy Whitson on her record-breaking time spent in space; 534 days. Whitson became the first female commander of the ISS in 2008, and is due to return to Earth in September.
Ms Whitson was accompanied in the video call by fellow astronaut, Jack Fischer. The call was streamed to schools across the country, and was used it as an opportunity to share what Nasa has been doing on board the ISS.
Whitson said that hundreds of experiments were being conducted, such as investigations into how deep space affects the human body, and how solar panels could be used to split and recombine carbon dioxide and water.
President Trump, accompanied by Kate Rubins, a Nasa astronaut, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter and senior advisor, congratulated Whitson on her achievement, and commented on the astronauts’ unusual working conditions.
“All over we have astronauts and we have everybody who are flying right now 17,000 miles per hour. That’s about as fast as I’ve ever heard. I wouldn’t want to fly 17,000 miles an hour but that’s what you do.”
Turning his attention toward the future of US space exploration, he asked Whitson: “what do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars?”
“Well, I think as your bill directed, it will be approximately in the 2030s,” Whitson replied, referring to Trump’s Nasa Transition Authorization Act 2017, which instructs the space agency to focus efforts on sending astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. She added that ambitious space programmes like these require international cooperation.
President Trump commented that this mission should “speed up” in order to be achieved during the first term of his presidency, or “at worst” during his second term.
President Trump has expressed enthusiasm for space exploration, including searching for life on Jupiter’s moons. However, his proposed budget would cut Nasa’s spending by $200m.
This would damage climate science programmes – particularly those using Earth-viewing instruments – and end its education programme, Nasa Education. It would also cancel plans to retrieve a boulder from an asteroid – the Asteroid Redirect Mission – and land on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, which could conceivably harbour life.