Trump adds to NASA budget and approves crewed mission to Mars

Alyssa Newcomb
President Donald Trump receives a NASA jacket during a signing ceremony for S442, the NASA transition authorization act, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 21, 2017.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Donald Trump signed a law on Tuesday authorizing funding for a crewed NASA mission to Mars.

The new bill adds a crewed mission to the red planet as a key NASA objective and authorizes the space agency to direct test human space flight programs that will enable more crewed exploration in deep space.

The space agency has $19.5 billion in funding for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts this October. Trump had allocated $19.1 billion for NASA in his budget, which is slightly down from the current year, but still an improvement from the past decade, which saw the end of the space shuttle program.

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The commander in chief signed the bill surrounded by astronauts and his former Republican rivals, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who both sponsored the bill.

Getting to Mars, though, isn't expected to happen during the Trump presidency. NASA has its sights set on getting to the red planet in the 2030s.

NASA laid out its plan for Mars in a 36-page report, detailing milestones the space agency must hit over the next few years to help ensure a successful future trek into deep space.

In the near term, NASA plans to test its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, in addition to visiting an asteroid and redirecting a chunk of it into orbit around the moon. Astronauts could later visit the boulder and use the mission to test some of the tools needed for a Mars mission.

The president tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that he was honored to support NASA's "pursuit of discovery."

@realDonaldTrump: Honored to sign S.442 today. With this legislation, we support @NASA's scientists, engineers, and astronauts in their pursuit of discovery!