Donald Trump, Nasa and a rare consensus: Mission to Mars

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US President Donald Trump signs a bill increasing funding for Nasa.
US President Donald Trump reacts after signing a bill increasing funding for Nasa in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 21, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Donald Trump on Tuesday (March 21) signed a law that said manned missions to deep space, including to Mars, would be the US space agency's main goal in the decades to come.

According to the text - adopted by a rare unanimous vote in the Senate and House of Representatives - Nasa will work toward the goal of "a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s."

The law also highlights the importance of the deep space capsule Orion, which is under development and aims to carry humans further into space than any spaceship ever has.

Orion will be launched atop the "Space Launch System" (SLS), which the space agency has described as the most powerful rocket ever built.

Nasa "shall continue the development of the fully integrated Space Launch System, including an upper stage needed to go beyond low-Earth orbit, in order to safely enable human space exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond over the course of the next century," said the text.

This law reaffirms "our national commitment to the core mission of Nasa," Trump said, signing the text in the presence of numerous elected officials including former Republican rivals, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

He saluted the "heroic role" of US astronauts over the last several decades, and called for continued partnerships between NASA and the private sector in the realm of space exploration.

Former president Barack Obama also hailed these industry-government partnerships, and said in October, just months before leaving office, that the United States had "set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America's story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth."

Experts say that sending people to live on the Red Planet, which lies on average some 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) away from Earth, will take immense amounts of technological advances and cash.

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