The Atlantic

Why Trump Wants to Go to the Moon So Badly

The administration has vowed to return Americans to the lunar surface in 2024 “by any means necessary.”
Source: Jim Lo Scalzo / Getty

There’s some disagreement about what the last people to visit the moon said just before they left. It could be Gene Cernan telling Jack Schmitt, who was fiddling with a camera, “Now let’s get off. Forget the camera.” It could be what was spoken after that, which NASA’s official transcript of the Apollo 17 mission describes only as “[garbled].” Or it could be, as astronaut lore has it, a few colorful words from Cernan: “Let’s get outta this mutha.”

The point is, the NASA astronauts left the moon in 1972, and no one has been back since.

When the Apollo program ended, NASA turned its attention toward other parts of the cosmos. It built space stations and shuttles, designed powerful floating telescopes, and sent machines to fly past some planets and moons and to land on others. Today the moon, Earth’s closest companion, seems almost distant in comparison.

But Donald Trump’s administration wants to go back, and soon.

“At the direction of the president of the United States, it is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the moon within the

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min readTech
FaceApp Makes Today’s Privacy Laws Look Antiquated
Cameras are everywhere, and data brokers are vacuuming up information on individuals. But regulations have not kept pace.
The Atlantic11 min read
The Friends Who Listen to BTS Together Stay Together
“Fans are often prone to saying, ‘This band saved my life.’ BTS made us realize we have to save ourselves.”
The Atlantic6 min read
The U.S.’s Toxic Agent Orange Legacy
Washington has admitted to the long-lasting effects of dioxin use in Vietnam, but has largely sidestepped the issue in neighboring Cambodia and Laos.