Trump signs directive aimed at sending Americans back to moon

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE in a White House ceremony on Monday signed a new directive aimed at sending U.S. astronauts back to the moon — one that, while short on details, the administration insisted will restore the U.S. to its role as a leader in space exploration and help spur job growth.

The order “will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” and “marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon ... for long-term exploration and use,” Trump said prior to signing the document. 

Monday marks the anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission landing on the moon in 1972, the last human voyage to the moon.

Trump opened the ceremony by thanking Vice President Pence, chairman of the National Space Council, “for helping ... to restore American leadership in space.” 

Also at the ceremony was retired astronaut Harrison Hagan “Jack” Schmitt, the last living crew member of Apollo 17, and Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. 

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“Exactly 45 years ago, almost to the minute, Jack became one of the last Americans to land on the moon. Today we pledge that he will not be the last, and I suspect we’ll be finding other places to land in addition to the moon. What do you think Jack?” Trump said. 

“This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond. This directive will ensure America’s space program once again leads and inspires all of humanity,” Trump added.

“This is a giant step toward that inspiring future. We are the leader, and we are going to stay the leader,” he said.

Pence praised Trump's leadership and said today's action will establish a “renewed American presence on the moon,” and “enhance our national security and our capacity to provide for the common defense” of the United States.

“We will also spur innovation as the space program has always done,” Pence said, adding that “we’ll see jobs created that we couldn’t even imagine could be created today.”

“American leadership and American values” will set the rules in space, Pence added.

The vice president announced at his first National Space Council meeting in October that the U.S. will return American astronauts to the moon. The council was created in 1989 under President George H.W. Bush and disbanded in 1993, but re-established by Trump in June. 

“This is very exciting and very important for our country and it also happens to mean jobs,” Trump said as he sat to sign the document.

In a statement following the signing, the White House offered few details on how it will enact such changes, but said it will refocus the U.S space program “on feasible goals” and “create incentives for private industry that spur 21st century space capabilities.”

Former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama both pledged significant increases for NASA in signing past space policy directives. Bush in 2004 sought $12 billion more over five years to fund NASA, while Obama in 2010 committed to increasing funding by $6 billion over five years.

But the White House statement did not mention any spending increase for NASA to accomplish the new directive.

Instead, the statement noted that “multiple American companies will provide the Pentagon with American engines and rockets to launch national security payloads.”

“The United States has been forced to rely on Russian rockets, at the cost of $70 million per seat,” following the 2011 retirement of the space shuttle program, according to the statement. “In the coming years the United States will launch astronauts on an American-made rocket and crew system.”

At the ceremony were several lawmakers and two current U.S. astronauts Christina Koch and Peggy Whitson, who at 57 years old became the oldest woman in space when she was in orbit on the International Space Station earlier this year.

Also attending were Secretary of Transportation Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoHillicon Valley: Trump meets Twitter CEO after slamming company | Kushner calls Russia probes more 'harmful' than election interference | Dem wants FTC to hold Zuckerberg 'liable' for data missteps | Sri Lanka faces tough questions over social media ban FAA approves drone delivery for Google spinoff Wing Why an independent panel must investigate Boeing crashes MORE, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? Conservative justices signal willingness to allow census citizenship question Fight over census citizenship question hits Supreme Court MORE, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsJordan, Meadows press intelligence chief on House Intel Russia probe transcripts Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE, acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.