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President Trump wants NASA to skip the moon and head to Mars. Here's why that could be difficult

President Donald Trump gestures as he signs a "Space Policy Directive" during a meeting of the National Space Council in the East Room of the White House, Monday, June 18, 2018, in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence watches. AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump gestures as he signs a "Space Policy Directive" during a meeting of the National Space Council in the East Room of the White House, Monday, June 18, 2018, in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence watches. AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — NASA is shooting for the moon, but President Donald Trump would like them to land on Mars.

According to USA Today, Trump tweeted Friday that the nation’s space agency should focus on heading to Mars — primarily due to the funding it would take to get to the Earth’s satellite.

“For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon – We did that 50 years ago,” he wrote. “They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!”

The president’s tweets refer to NASA’s request for an extra $1.6 billion to fund a landing on the moon’s south pole by 2024. Trump has already requested $21 billion to fund NASA’s ventures, which include establishing a permanent presence on the moon, which would prepare the United States for an eventual mission to Mars.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine also recently told USA Today that without the extra funding, NASA’s time table would likely need to be pushed back several years.

"It takes this off the table," Bridenstine said. "We're going to be back looking at 2028."

Last month, Trump tweeted that he’d be happy to give the additional funding to NASA for a moon mission — which would transition toward Mars.

According to a proposal released by NASA, the organization is already planning on sending a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s. However, President Trump’s most recent comments would require that timetable to be sped up by at least six years, which could lead to complications with NASA’s current four-step plan, which includes acclimating astronauts to prolonged space exposure.

If rushed, a long-term trip to Mars could be damaging to the astronauts manning the expedition. I reported for Deseret News that spending too much time in space can lead to brittle bones, atrophied muscles and decreased brain function — all of which requires the afflicted astronauts to return home.