Donald Trump’s health care plans may go nowhere, but he’s dead set on being the first president to send a manned mission to Mars.
In a White House ceremony on Tuesday, Trump signed a $19.5 billion bipartisan bill introduced by fiscal conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) that would beef up NASA funding for 2017 and add exploration of the Red Planet to its mission.
Kara Swisher at the tech website Recode says SpaceX founder Elon Musk doesn’t believe that the NASA Transition Authorization Act goes far enough to achieve its objective, and Musk responded.
While not exactly igniting a new space race like John F. Kennedy’s 1961 push to put an American on the moon, Trump did make mention of the Apollo 11 landing in 1969. The Washington Post quoted him as saying, “It was a big moment in our history. Now, this nation is ready to be the first in space once again.”
Kennedy was, of course, determined to leap ahead of the Soviet Union in the quest to conquer space.
At the signing, Trump joked with former GOP primary rivals Cruz and bill co-sponsor Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) about being astronauts. During the campaign, Trump had suggested that Cruz’s father might have been involved with JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, but that bizarre moment has apparently been put aside.
Cruz and Rubio, who represent states with enormous NASA installations, demurred when Trump asked about becoming astronauts. But Cruz said, “You could send Congress into space.”
Trump said he thought that might be “a great idea.” No word, however, on whether planning for the mission to Mars will include a courtesy call on the Russian side of the International Space Station.