Earlier today, President Trump took time out of his busy schedule to video-call the American astronauts aboard the International Space Station. In between comments on how great American technology is, Trump seems to have let slip his administration’s Mars policy. According to the pool report of the conversation, it’s kinda ambitious:
POTUS asked about the timeline for placing humans on Mars, and said he would like to speed up the timeline to get that done “at worst, during my second term.”
“I have great respect for you folks, it’s amazing what you do.” POTUS said.
To be clear: Trump wants, “at worst,” to have humans on Mars by 2024. That’s an improvement of decades on NASA’s current plan, which has the first Mars fly-by pencilled in for 2033, and no real plan for a human landing on Mars any time soon. That plan also assumes that NASA’s budget remains intact and American scientific institutions aren’t gutted, which is far from certain right now.
More importantly, this raises the question of whether Trump actually knows where Mars is. It’s quite possible that he’s talking about getting humans to the Moon again, rather than Mars. His administration has said before that it’d like to see human space exploration (outside of the ISS) by the end of Trump’s first term, which agrees with what Trump said about getting folks to the Moon/Mars “at worst, during my second term.”
Now we’re left to wonder which is more likely: a President who thinks it’s realistic to shave 20 years off the Martian exploration program, or one that confuses different celestial bodies. If the Earth can make it to 2024 intact, I guess we’ll find out.