POLITICO.com By CRISTIANO LIMA Wed., Mar.14, 2018
President Donald Trump predicted on Tuesday that the U.S. would reach Mars “very soon” and backed the idea of creating a militaristic “space force,” seemingly expressing support for a measure that faced opposition from officials in his own administration.
Touting recent technological advancements, Trump forecast that “very soon we’re going to Mars” — a feat that he said wouldn’t have been possible had Hillary Clinton prevailed in the 2016 election.
“You wouldn’t have been going to Mars if my opponent won, that I can tell you. You wouldn’t even be thinking about it,” Trump quipped while speaking to service members at a Marine Corps air station in Miramar, California.
The president also voiced support for creating a “space force” to bolster U.S. defenses, appearing to back a proposal opposed last year by officials in the White House and the Department of Defense.
“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said. “We may even have a space force — develop another one, space force. We have the Air Force, we’ll have the space force.”
The House Armed Services Committee approved a measure in June to include language to create a U.S. Space Corps, as part of the Air Force, in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. But the measure faced opposition from top officials in Trump’s own White House and Pentagon.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis came out against the measure in July, issuing a rare statement in support of a proposal to remove language on the space corps from the defense budget for 2018.
“At a time when we are trying to integrate the department’s joint warfighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations,” Mattis reportedly wrote in a letter to Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who led House efforts on the matter.
A White House official in July told CNN that creating a space corps was “premature at this time.”
Trump marveled the achievements of SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has said he’s “optimistic” that his company will be able to launch test flights to Mars by as early as 2019.
“I don’t know if you saw last with Elon — with the rocket boosters where they’re coming back down,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday. “To me, that was more amazing than watching the rocket go up because I’ve never seen that before. Nobody has seen it before, where they’re saving the boosters. They came back without wings or without anything, they landed so beautifully.”
But Musk, speaking at South by Southwest on Monday, acknowledged that there were still technical hurdles that needed to be overcome before humans could successfully land on the planet.