President Donald Trump once offered NASA “all the money you could ever need” to land on Mars during the first term of his presidency, according to a New York magazine report citing a coming memoir from a former White House communications official.
According to the magazine, in Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, the former White House director of message strategy Cliff Sims recalled that immediately before a phone call with astronauts aboard the International Space Station in April 2017, Trump expressed a deep fascination with sending humans to Mars during his first term.
In the private dining room with NASA officials, Trump reportedly queried his audience on the possibility of landing on Mars. Robert Lightfoot Jr., then the acting NASA administrator, said the US was aiming to land a human on Mars by 2030.
“But is there any way we could do it by the end of my first term?” the magazine said Trump asked, citing Sims.
Sims reportedly wrote that he was “getting antsy” in the room because of Trump’s abrupt question shortly before a televised phone call with the space station.
NASA officials were believed to have gone to great lengths to coordinate with the space station, with timing considered particularly important.
“All I could think about was that we had to be on camera in three minutes … And yet we’re in here casually chatting about shaving a full decade off NASA’s timetable for sending a manned flight to Mars,” Sims reportedly wrote. “And seemingly out of nowhere.”
Trump then reportedly asked Lightfoot: “But what if I gave you all the money you could ever need to do it?”
“What if we sent NASA’s budget through the roof, but focused entirely on that instead of whatever else you’re doing now. Could it work then?” Trump reportedly asked.
Lightfoot reiterated the logistical hurdles to Trump, who appeared to be “visibly disappointed,” the magazine said, citing Sims.
With seconds to spare, the report said, Trump went into a bathroom to check his appearance, looked in the mirror and said, “Space Station, this is your president.”
Trump went on to ask the astronaut Peggy Whitson, who was aboard the International Space Station, about Mars.
“What do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars?” Trump asked Whitson during the call.
After Whitson pointed out the technological and legislative challenges such an effort would entail, Trump appeared to joke that he wanted to complete the space mission “in my first term, or at worst in my second term.”
“So I think we’ll have to speed that up a little bit,” Trump said.
One month before the phone call, Trump signed a US$19.5 billion bill to fund NASA. The authorization bill required NASA to commit to exploring Mars and was reportedly the first of its kind in seven years.
Sims, who worked on Trump’s presidential campaign, now leads a boutique consulting firm. Team of Vipers was ranked No. 7 on Amazon’s best-seller list at the time of this writing. It is scheduled for release on January 29.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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