"Nothing has changed", Bridenstine said during a townhall event. "Some people have tried to read more into this than there is. We’re going to Mars. The moon is a waypoint. We need to learn how to live and work on another world."
Bridenstine noted that the Moon is a three-day journey from Earth.
"You don’t want to do that when your journey home [from Mars] is two years from now," Bridenstine said.
On Friday, Trump set the world of television news in a tizzy of speculation over what the president meant in a tweet concerning NASA’s plans for the moon.
"For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago," Trump said. "They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!"
Bridenstine urged pundits to look closer at what the president's words.
"If you read his tweet he talks about going to Mars and he says in parenthesis that the moon is a part of that," Bridenstine said.
A human voyage to Mars is more difficult because landings and takeoffs need to be scheduled when the Red Planet is on the same side of the sun as Earth - an alignment that occurs once every two years.
In addition, the flight between Earth and Mars requires an additional five to 10 months, depending on the speed of the spacecraft.