Trump comes out against NASA effort to return to the moon

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE on Friday said NASA should not be focused on going to the moon despite his own administration's support for the effort, saying the agency should instead prioritize "much bigger things," like going to Mars.

"For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon — We did that 50 years ago," the president tweeted from aboard Air Force One while flying back to the U.S. from a week in Europe.

"They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!" he added.

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The moon is not part of Mars. Trump was possibly referring to moon exploration serving as part of the broader end goal of reaching Mars and beyond, as detailed on NASA's "Moon to Mars" webpage.

The president's tweet on Friday is at odds with his own administration's focus on returning to the moon.

Trump signed a directive in December 2017 that formally directed NASA to focus on returning humans to the moon.

Less than a month ago, Trump said he was updating his budget proposal to include $1.6 billion for NASA to focus on space exploration. The president said in the May 13 tweet that the country is "going back to the Moon, then Mars." 

Vice President Pence, head of the White House's Space Council, announced in March that the Trump administration is committed to landing U.S. astronauts on the moon within the next five years.

The vice president said the Trump administration had directed NASA to hit the five-year goal "by any means necessary."

Space exploration has been an area of focus in the Trump administration. The president signed an executive order in July 2017 to revive the National Space Council after more than two decades.

In addition to exploration, the administration has sought to develop a military component known as the Space Force.