- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2019

President Trump on Friday hailed the Apollo 11 lunar landing as one of America’s greatest achievements but said his sights are set “further now,” saying the U.S. will venture on to Mars.

Mr. Trump also pointed to his launch of the Space Force, an offshoot of the Air Force, and rampant private investment in space exploration.

“NASA’s back,” the president said from the White House. “We’re having rich guys use it and pay us rent.”

His remarks presaged events Saturday to mark the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.

Vice President Mike Pence will visit Cape Canaveral, Florida, to commemorate the anniversary and visit the Apollo 11 launch site.

Mr. Trump celebrated Friday with surviving astronauts Buzz Aldrin, who stepped on the moon after Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins, who orbited in the spacecraft while the others walked the lunar surface.

Armstrong died in 2012, though his family joined the Oval Office ceremony.

The president and the astronauts discussed whether NASA should try to go to Mars directly — instead of landing on the moon, first, as a proving ground.

Mars direct,” Mr. Collins said.

“It seems to me Mars direct, who knows better than these people?” Mr. Trump told NASA Director Jim Bridenstine.

“You’re impatient,” Mr. Aldrin chimed in.

Mr. Bridenstine told Mr. Trump that a direct mission would be challenging.

Mr. Trump said either way, his administrator is doing a good job in refurbishing the agency.

“We’re bringing the glamour back to it,” Mr. Trump said. “There’s beauty, and a lot of great things happening.”

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