PASADENA, Calif. — President Donald Trump gave a brief shout-out to NASA's successful Mars landing today (Nov. 26).
During a rally in Tupelo, Mississippi aimed at boosting support for U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), who faces a runoff election tomorrow (Nov. 27) against Democratic candidate Mike Espy, Trump hailed the touchdown of the $850 million InSight lander, though not by name.
"Today, we just landed on Mars — did you hear that?" Trump told the cheering crowd. "They were celebrating at NASA. We have reawakened NASA, and that's a good thing." [NASA's InSight Mars Lander: Full Coverage]
Whatever Trump's remarks may seem to imply, the InSight mission actually predates his administration; NASA officially greenlit the mission in 2012, during the presidency of Barack Obama. You can watch the Mississippi rally in the video embedded above, or directly via C-SPAN here in a user-generated clip.
Trump sandwiched the InSight kudos between a nod to the Space Force — a new branch of the U.S. military that he plans to set up — and an apparent reference to billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the driving forces behind SpaceX and Blue Origin, respectively.
"A lot of the rich guys like rockets, so we charge them rent," Trump said, apparently referring to the fact that some private spaceflight companies, such as SpaceX, lease launch sites from NASA. (NASA actually pays SpaceX and Northrop Grumman to launch robotic cargo missions to the International Space Station, and has signed multibillion-dollar contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to fly crewmembers to the orbiting lab.)
"Go ahead, build all the rockets you want — that's good for us, right?" the president added. "Just make sure you have an American flag on the rocket."
Vice President Mike Pence congratulated NASA and the InSight team in a more direct fashion, saying via Twitter today: "Congratulations to @NASA, @LockheedMartin, @ulalaunch, & all who made today's @NASAInSight #MarsLanding possible! This marks the 8th time the US has landed on Mars & the 1st mission to study its deep interior. Incredible milestone!"
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine participated in landing festivities today here at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which manages InSight's mission. During a post-landing news conference, the NASA chief said that both Trump and Pence were moved by InSight's success.
"I've been on the phone recently with both the president and the vice president, and they are overwhelmingly proud of everything that has gone on here today," Bridenstine said.
"They watched the entire thing," he added. "Of course, they were very anxious and anticipating greatness, which ultimately we had today. But what an amazing day, and they are so grateful for all the hard work of everybody in this room."
InSight, which launched on May 5, will use a burrowing heat probe and a suite of seismometers to map the interior of Mars like never before. The data gathered by the lander should help researchers better understand how rocky planets form and evolve, NASA officials have said.
Don't expect a data rush soon, however: InSight likely won't deploy its science gear for two to three months, and it'll take another month or so to calibrate the equipment. The lander's mission is scheduled to last nearly two Earth years.
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @Spacedotcomor Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.