Trump Adds to NASA Budget, Approves Crewed Mission to Mars

"It is the first time in seven years we've had a NASA authorization bill", Cruz said, joking with Trump that they now had the ability to "send Congress to space".

"With this legislation, we support NASA's scientists, engineers and astronauts and their pursuit of discovery", Trump continued. NASA will rely heavily on feedback from planned missions by Elon Musk's SpaceX - which is set to launch an unmanned spaceship to Mars as soon as 2018.

The bill, known as the NASA Transition Authorization Act, authorised $19.5 billion budget in spending for NASA for the fiscal year 2017, Xinhua reported. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen.

While NASA is refocusing its efforts on exploring the unknown parts of space, countries like China and India are seeking to make their mark, hoping to end the dominance of Russian Federation and the the world's foremost space-going nations.

Lawmakers from both parties flanked Trump, with Cruz just to his right, with House Science Chairman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, and Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston - chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that controls NASA's funding - also nearby.

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The bill extends a number of important space programs, including the Hubble Telescope and the International Space Station through 2024 - and calls for a crewed mission to Mars by 2033. Among the policy provisions included are designating the Mission to Mars as the nation's primary long-term exploration goal and identifying the Space Launch System as the deep space vehicle.

"We could", Trump replied.

However, the 2018 NASA budget is slightly smaller than the one pledged by Barack Obama previous year. "It's fantastic what's going on", he said.

In addition, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that Trump plans to relaunch the National Space Council - which has been sitting on the shelf since George H.W. Bush left office.

It is clear that Trump sees NASA as something of a jobs program, and during the campaign he lamented the loss of NASA jobs in Florida's space coast after the shutdown of the space shuttle program.

  • Regina Walsh