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Trump offered NASA money to land on Mars during his presidency: report

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President Donald Trump reportedly offered the NASA “all the money you could ever need” to land on Mars by the first term of his presidency, according to a New York Magazine report citing an upcoming memoir from a former White House communications official.

In “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House,” former White House Message Strategy director Cliff Sims recalls that immediately before a phone call with astronauts aboard the International Space Station in April 2017, Trump expressed a deep fascination for 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., the acting NASA administrator, explained that the US would try landing a human on Mars by 2030.

“But is there any way we could do it by the end of my first term,” Trump asked, according to Sims.

Cliff Sims, far left, Director of White House Message Strategy, stands with White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, June 12, 2017.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Sims writes that he was “getting antsy” in the room due to 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, which could only be reached during a certain time due to “orbital mechanics.”

“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, who appeared “distracted,” 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 asked.

Lightfoot reiterated the logistical hurdles to Trump, who appeared to be “visibly disappointed,” according to 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 pose his previous question to astronaut Peggy Whitson aboard the Space Station.

“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 prior to his phone call, Trump signed a $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” is ranked No. 7 on Amazon’s best-sellers list at the time of this writing. It is scheduled for release on January 29.

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