Bridenstine: “Nothing has changed” with 2024 moon plan
By Cat Hofacker|June 10, 2019
The White House still supports the proposed 2024 moon landing that President Donald Trump seemed to question in a tweet last week, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told an audience of NASA employees today.
“Nothing has changed. The program is the same. We’re going to the moon to get to Mars,” Bridenstine said in response to a question that came in via Twitter during a “town hall” meeting at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio.
A Friday tweet by Trump left NASA watchers stunned. “For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon — We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!” Trump tweeted.
Trump seemed to contradict Vice President Mike Pence, who in March announced that the “policy of this administration” calls for NASA to return U.S. astronauts to the moon in 2024. Since then, Bridenstine has routinely cast the moon as a “proving ground” for a future human mission to Mars. He contended that is “exactly the case” Trump’s tweet made.
“If you read his tweet, he says in parentheses that the moon is a part of that,” Bridenstine said. “In other words, we’re going to the moon to get to Mars. Nothing has changed.”
Bridenstine pointed to a television appearance by NASA Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWit as the possible inspiration for the tweet. During an interview on Fox Business, host Neil Cavuto asked DeWit about the 2024 lunar mission, saying “Didn’t we do this moon thing a few decades ago?”
Dewit replied: “The moon when we did it 50 years ago, it was what we call ‘flags and footprints.’ We went, we did walk around, we collected samples and we came back. What we’re doing now is establishing a sustainable presence on the lunar surface.”
DeWit said lunar missions are needed to “drive that innovation and complete those technologies that will allow us to have a sustained presence on Mars.” He added that a sustainable lunar presence must come first to prove such a presence on Mars is a “safe venture.”
Bridenstine has often repeated that Mars is the “horizon goal” for NASA, and he doubled down on that point during Monday’s visit to Glenn, where he also held a press conference. He referred to the moon as a “waypoint” several times.
“The moon is not the destination. Mars is the destination. It is the horizon goal. The moon is a waypoint: how we learn to live and work on another world on the way to Mars,” Bridenstine told reporters, according to a livestream of the press conference.