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Trump touts Space Force, moon and Mars plans in State of the Union address

Space exploration got a couple of shout-outs in President Donald Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday night (Feb. 4).

During the nearly 80-minute speech, Trump touted the recent establishment of the Space Force — the first new U.S. military branch to be stood up since the Air Force in 1947 — as one of his administration's key accomplishments thus far. 

And one of the president's special guests for the State of the Union, which is held every year in the House of Representatives chamber of the U.S. Capitol building, was a kid with Space Force dreams.

Related: Presidential Visions for Space: From Ike to Trump

President Donald Trump speaks during his State of the Union address on Feb. 4, 2020. (Image credit: WhiteHouse.gov)

"In the gallery tonight, we have a young gentleman," Trump said. "And what he wants so badly — 13 years old — Iain Lanphier, he is an eighth-grader from Arizona. Iain, please stand up. Iain has always dreamed of going to space. He was the first in his class and among the youngest at an aviation academy. He aspires to go to the Air Force Academy, and then he has his eye on the Space Force. As Iain says, 'Most people look up at space; I want to look down on the world.'"

President Trump also referenced NASA's Artemis program of crewed lunar exploration. Artemis aims to put astronauts on the surface of the moon by 2024 and use Earth's nearest neighbor as a training ground for crewed missions to Mars in the 2030s. 

Related: In photos: President Donald Trump and NASA

NASA originally targeted 2028 for the human lunar landing, which will be the first since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, but Vice President Mike Pence announced an accelerated timeline in March of last year. (Last month, the House Science Committee introduced an appropriations bill that would re-target 2028 for the lunar landing. But that bill has a long way to go before being enacted as law.)

"In reaffirming our heritage as a free nation, we must remember that America has always been a frontier nation. Now we must embrace the next frontier: America's manifest destiny in the stars," Trump said during last night's speech. "I am asking Congress to fully fund the Artemis program to ensure that the next man and first woman on the moon will be American astronauts, using this as a launching pad to ensure that America is the first nation to plant its flag on Mars."

We'll soon see what kind of funding he has in mind; the White House is expected to unveil its 2021 federal budget request on Monday (Feb. 10). 

President Trump has made a fair bit of space news during his first three years in office. There's the Space Force, of course, and Space Policy Directive-1, which officially set the nation's human spaceflight program on its moon-to-Mars path. (President Barack Obama had directed NASA to get people to Mars, but to use an asteroid as a stepping stone.)

Trump has also signed two other space policy directives, which deal with space traffic management and the regulation of commercial activities in space, respectively. And in 2017, Trump resurrected the National Space Council (NSC), which helps steer American space policy.

Pence chairs the NSC, which had last been active in the early 1990s, during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.

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 on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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  • Thejasonmondragon
    Imo this article could have been so much better and seems biased. Tout is the wrong word. More like inspires the next generation of astronauts, what are you doing dude? Support the fact that it was even mentioned at all. You're on Space.com for Christ sake! I'm disappointed in your approach with this article as should be everyone who loves space. Regarding the State of the Union show respect and positivity! This is bigger than you and I, have more weight to this on a neutral and constructive level. President "touts", bro don't be disgusting like Nancy Pelosi and her #pelositantrum that's trending all over twitter right now.
    Reply
  • Eric the Dread
    Jason has a point; Trump and Pence are huge space enthusiasts - the greatest allies to the space faring community since President Kennedy. I'm surprised the administration only seems to get more salt thrown at it from this sector.
    Reply
  • sonofkenny
    Trump lies about everything else why do we think he wouldn't lie about his support for the space program? He doesn't see any personal benefit yet it destroying it, but you can be assured if he ever does he won't hesitate.
    Reply
  • bill.barbre
    Trump touts everything. He always has the stance of wanting to sell you something. You can't blame the journalist for stating it as such. Like sonofkenny says, he lies about everything, it's understandable that rational people doubt anything he says he'll deliver. He built his company (and thus his brand) on lies and deceit. Do you know why he declared bankruptcy so many times? Not reorganization, but actual bankruptcy. It's because he wouldn't pay the contractors hired to build his crap! That's the guy talking at the State of the Union Address.
    Reply
  • Spacetrooper
    If you are a fan of human space flight only the current administration will support human exploration. The fact is all others give lip service to space flight but the green new deal and the other programs suggested would devastate NASA and the human space flight program.
    Reply
  • Susan
    The Artemis Program seems as unworkable and unreal as was Obama's Road to Mars and Bush's Constellation Program. Lots of great pictures and hype to keep the guy in the White House happy, but no money worth mentioning. I eagerly await China's landing humans on the moon because then the US will get real again.
    Reply
  • Shmuel
    An inspiring speech, as usual. Don't worry, I'm not taking everything he says precisely, just in general terms. But I'll tell you, I do not feel comfortable about a "Space Force". We are keeping the military out of Antarctica, why do we need a Space Force? We work well with Russia in space, why do we need military there? OK, a few satellites, but a whole branch of the armed services? Seems a bit much to me.
    Reply
  • Truthseeker007
    sonofkenny said:
    Trump lies about everything else why do we think he wouldn't lie about his support for the space program? He doesn't see any personal benefit yet it destroying it, but you can be assured if he ever does he won't hesitate.

    What politician don't lie about everything?lol! I am sure he took politician 101 as well. Tell the people what they want to hear.
    Reply
  • Truthseeker007
    Shmuel said:
    An inspiring speech, as usual. Don't worry, I'm not taking everything he says precisely, just in general terms. But I'll tell you, I do not feel comfortable about a "Space Force". We are keeping the military out of Antarctica, why do we need a Space Force? We work well with Russia in space, why do we need military there? OK, a few satellites, but a whole branch of the armed services? Seems a bit much to me.

    Well it seems our so called leaders and the leaders of most of the world want to militarize everything. A lot of it is our fault though because we still keep signing up for these programs around the world. Although I do understand in some countries they have no choice then to sign up for a military program. We even had that ourselves during Vietnam when people were forced for what may be deemed as a useless war where many lives were lost for both sides. You wonder for how many more generations longer will humans war with each other?
    Reply
  • Eric the Dread
    bill.barbre said:
    Trump touts everything. He always has the stance of wanting to sell you something. You can't blame the journalist for stating it as such. Like sonofkenny says, he lies about everything, it's understandable that rational people doubt anything he says he'll deliver. He built his company (and thus his brand) on lies and deceit. Do you know why he declared bankruptcy so many times? Not reorganization, but actual bankruptcy. It's because he wouldn't pay the contractors hired to build his crap! That's the guy talking at the State of the Union Address.
    Does the Space Force not exist? Is the 1.6 billion increase request for Nasa's moon ambitions, disingenuine? Give me facts, as to why these are all just lies; not just spin.
    Reply