Moon mission a step forward to reach Mars: NASA chief

Washington: NASA’s new head, Jim Bridenstine, has defended the new agency directive to return astronauts to the Moon, saying that the mission will not derail the US goal of becoming the first country to put humans on Mars.

“Our return to the surface of the Moon will allow us to prove and advance technologies that will…(enable) us to land the first Americans on the Red Planet,” the NASA Administrator said on Wednesday during his keynote address at the “Humans to Mars” summit in Washington, DC.

US President Donald Trump in December 2017 signed a change in national space policy that provides for a US-led integrated programme with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable programme of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities”.

In his first major address as NASA administrator, Bridenstine, however, did not disclose any new initiatives by NASA to send humans to the Red Planet, Space.com reported.

Mars and the moon will be complementary initiatives, said Bridenstine, who was sworn in as administrator three weeks ago after NASA went 15 months without a permanent leader.

“If some of you are concerned that the coming focus is the moon, don’t be,” Bridenstine said.

“We’re doing both the Moon and Mars in tandem, and the missions are supportive of each other,” he added.

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