"America will land the first woman on the Moon and the United States will be the first nation to land an astronaut on Mars, we’re getting very close," Trump said at his campaign rally in Janesville, Wisconsin on Saturday.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Friday that his company was on track to launch its first uncrewed mission to Mars in four years, using the Starship reusable vehicle.
According to Musk, initially, the Starship launch vehicle should be able to carry over 100 metric tons of cargo to low Earth orbit once it is completed. The larger goal is to have Starship missions transport people to the moon and Mars. According to SpaceX, Starship lunar missions could start as early as 2022.
"Together, NASA and industry are building up an array of mission-ready capabilities to support a sustainable presence on the Moon and future human missions to Mars," Bridenstine said.
The awards totalled $370 million, about $270 of which will go to four companies that are developing cryogenic fluid management technologies needed for rocket fuel: one small business, Eta Space, plus three corporate giants, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance (ULA), NASA said in a statement.
Bridenstine said NASA plans the first human lunar settlement in 2028, four years after a scheduled visit to the Moon’s south pole by two American astronauts in 2024.