Almost two years ago, with no regard for safety precautions or protocol, President Donald Trump faced the sun head-on. As the rest of us watched the solar eclipse through specially purchased glasses or cereal boxes outfitted with X-acto-knifed slots, President Trump squinted unblinkingly into the bright, unfiltered sunlight and emerged unscathed. Then, on Friday, he came for the moon.
Less than three months ago, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Trump administration’s goal of sending a crew to the moon by 2028 would be accelerated by four years; in the past month, the president has said that he wants an additional $1.6 billion dedicated to that aim. But in a tweet sent Friday afternoon, the president chastised NASA for doing exactly the job he’d instructed it to do. “NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon,” he wrote. “They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing.”
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
The moon, Trump’s tweet seems to imply, is a boring destination. Too old-school, too small potatoes, too … reachable. Trump isn’t the first president to suggest a return to the moon, and he’s also not the first to suggest skipping that costly, time-consuming, already-made trip in favor of putting a foot on Mars. But he’s the first to muddle both plans in quite this way. (When he noted that the moon is a part of Mars—it’s not—he may have meant that many see a moon base as a stepping-stone to a Mars mission.)