Trump and NASA: should the United States make the Moon its next destination?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Donald Trump wants to make another giant leap for mankind with the United States' space programme.
The president was once enthusiastic about a return to the Moon for American astronauts, but he appears to have changed his mind.
In an odd tweet, Trump said that NASA should focus on travel to Mars instead.
However, one of his critics argues that colonisation of the Moon could save the Earth.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and critic of Trump, explains why he is trying to colonise the Moon, the Business Insider reports.
His other company, Blue Origin, is building a giant lunar lander to "make moon travel as easy as an airplane flight".
Speaking at Amazon’s inaugural Re:Mars tech conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, Bezos said: "The reason we’ve got to go to space, in my view, is to save the Earth.
"If we’re going to continue to grow this civilisation, we need to move - and I’m talking about something our grandchildren will work on and their grandchildren and so on.
"This isn’t something just this generation is going to accomplish."
He said that the Moon was the perfect spot, because it has water in the form of ice, it is only a three-day ride from Earth, it has access to solar energy, and its lighter gravity means that it takes "24 times less energy to lift a pound off the moon than it does Earth".
The Amazon CEO added: "To do big things in space, we need to use in-space resources. So the Moon is great."
While Trump was once enthusiastic about the United States' return to the Moon, the US president has reversed his thrust. He says that NASA should focus on Mars, not the Moon, according to NBC News.
He previously had been pushing for a return to the Moon within five years.
However, in a confusing tweet, Trump said: "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!"
It goes without saying that Mars is not part of the Moon - in fact, the Red Planet is 140 million miles away from Earth's only natural satellite.
A White House official later clarified that Trump was not changing his space strategy. They told NBC News: "Our administration’s goal has always been to get to Mars. We have asked Congress for additional resources to get to the Moon by 2024, which will enable us to get to Mars roughly a decade after creating a sustainable presence on the lunar surface."
It has been nearly 50 years since a man stepped foot on the Moon.
NASA carried out six manned flights to the Moon between 1969 and 1972, putting 12 people on Earth's satellite.
The most famous was the first Moon landing when the Apollo 11 crew - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins - made "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".
On July 20, 1969, the lunar module of Apollo 11 landed safely in the area named Mare Tranquillitatis, commonly known as the Sea of Tranquility.
Armstrong and Aldrin spent 21 hours and 36 minutes on the surface, taking photographs, conducting experiments and collecting samples of rock and soil. Collins was piloting the orbiting command module.
The last time that man set foot on the Moon was in 1972 with the Apollo 17 mission. It was launched after midnight on December 7, and it broke records for longest time spent on the Moon and the longest time in lunar orbit.