President Trump is an ambitious man. So ambitious, in fact, that his plans often extend beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. They’ve done so with Space Force, his proposed sixth branch of the military that would oversee American war-fighting efforts in space. They’ve also done so with his drive to return to the moon and, ultimately, to put Americans on Mars.
On Friday afternoon, Trump’s mind orbited back around to the Great Beyond. He had some new thoughts. “For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon – We did that 50 years ago,” the president tweeted. “They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2019
Thought the tweet was widely mocked for its failure to make sense, Trump is probably attempting to relate the role the moon would play in a potential mission to Mars. From NASA:
“Exploration of the Moon and Mars is intertwined. The Moon provides an opportunity to test new tools, instruments and equipment that could be used on Mars, including human habitats, life support systems, and technologies and practices that could help us build self-sustaining outposts away from Earth. Living on the Gateway for months at a time will also allow researchers to understand how the human body responds in a true deep space environment before committing to the years-long journey to Mars.”
As is often the case, Trump’s take seems to be in response to a segment on Fox, as the tweet was posted just over an hour after Neil Cavuto discussed the issue on Fox Business above a chyron that read, “NASA PLANS 2024 MOON TRIP,” as Matthew Gertz of Media Matters pointed out on Twitter. But during the segment, the proposed trip to the moon in 2024 was described as a necessary precursor of a trip to Mars, so, again, it’s unclear why the president is upset.
As CNN’s Brian Stelter pointed out, prior to Friday Trump had largely focused on the moon.
Apollo 11's Michael Collins knocked Trump yesterday: "I don't think he's too much aware of Mars. Maybe he doesn't understand that there IS a planet Mars." Collins says many experts see the moon as a gateway to Mars, but he wants Mars to be the priority 👇https://t.co/RiIOmyAQ3d
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) June 7, 2019
Trump tweeted about going back to the moon as recently as May 13th. “Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” he wrote. “I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!”
While speaking at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, in March, Vice President Mike Pence told the agency to utilize “any means necessary” to return to the moon as soon as possible. Pence has also been a prominent mouthpiece behind Space Force. Though the proposed military branch would have nothing to do with a mission to Mars, the Trump campaign has used the a hypothetical journey to the Red Planet to sell merchandise bearing the hypothetical branch’s name.
Perhaps herein lies an explanation for Trump’s pivot from the moon to Mars: It’s better for the brand.