US astronauts are headed back to the Moon after President Donald J. Trump ordered NASA to focus on manned space missions. Today at a White House ceremony, the President signed White House Space Policy Directive 1, which directs NASA to work with commercial and international partners to send American astronauts to our satellite as the first step to going to Mars and beyond.

Today's signing marks another shift in US space policy, which has been seeking to recapture the success of the tightly focused Apollo program of the 1960s. In recent decades, NASA's manned spaceflight efforts have been marked by a series of false starts, neglect, and sudden changes with each incoming administration. In addition to setting new goals, the directive will influence NASA's Fiscal Year 2019 budget request.

In July, President Trump revived the National Space Council headed by Vice President Michael Pence to advise and implement the President's policy of redirecting US space efforts away from Earth studies and toward deep space exploration. The Council was disbanded in 1993 after protracted infighting during the George H W Bush administration.

According to the new directive, the NASA administrator will "lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the Solar System and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities."

The signing was attended by Representatives of Congress and the National Space Council; Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon; Senator Harrison Schmitt, the second to last astronaut to leave the Moon during the Apollo 17 mission; Peggy Whitson, who holds the record for the most numbers of days in space for any American astronaut; and Christina Koch, a member of the US astronaut class of 2013.

"The directive I am signing today will refocus America's space program on human exploration and discovery," said President Trump. "It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints – we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond."

The White House video below shows the signing ceremony.

Source: NASA

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