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President Trump praises reusable rockets, misses moon in space observations



President Donald Trump spoke to supporters at a rally in Manchester on August 15, 2019 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Enlarge / President Donald Trump spoke to supporters at a rally in Manchester on August 15, 2019 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

On Thursday evening, President Donald Trump spoke at a MAGA rally in New Hampshire. The president touched on his usual topics, such as immigration and weapons, but he also spent two minutes talking about space, a topic of interest, and held several events in the Oval Office around.

"We are investing in the future of human space flight," the president said, making his remarks during the space flight. "And one day soon, American astronauts will place stars and stripes on the surface of Mars."

Trump never mentioned his administration's moon or lunar program during that comment or in any of his subsequent remarks Thursday night. This is remarkable because the human spaceflight initiative of his administration is the Artemis program, an attempt to accelerate a person's return to the moon by 2024. The closest Trump, who acknowledges the moon program, said, "NASA has some of the greatest plans we have ever had. These are great people, great scientists. "

This is not the first time the president has expressed a preference for sending astronauts to Mars. During the July 19, 2019, photo shoot of the Oval Office with surviving Apollo 11 mission crew members, Trump questioned NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein as to whether the agency should simply jump over the moon and go directly to Mars.

These questions come at a crucial time for NASA and Bridenstein, who is both trying to persuade Congress to increase funding for the Artemis program in fiscal 2020, trying to stifle a Texas Republican uprising over a lunar landing presidential program prefers a direct approach to Mars.

But Thursday night, the president spends most of his time praising the private sector's efforts to reuse rockets. (This is probably another difficult conversation between the NASA administrator and the president, as Bridenstine has to justify spending over $ 2 billion a year to develop a Space Launch System rocket that can't be reused while private contractors build their large rockets for reusable largely without public money).

"That's how I see Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, they put rockets. I think it's great," Trump said. "The one who has recently stepped up and you see the engines go down, has no wings or nothing. It's almost like, what are we looking at? Is this a fabrication?"

The president appears to be referring to the launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket on April 11, 2019 by SpaceX. During this mission, the company landed two boosters side by side on land and placed a third one on an unmanned aerial vehicle offshore in the Atlantic. The company then re-used the side boosters for a second Falcon Heavy flight just two months later.

"Who would have thought they could do that?" Trump asked. "I never saw it six months ago. But they are doing it more and more. They save a lot of the most important and expensive parts of a rocket."


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