U.S. President Donald Trump has said American astronauts would return to the moon by 2024.
Speaking after the successful launched of the country’s first human spaceflight in nine years, Trump said the aim was to “establish a permanent presence in space and a launching pad to Mars’’.
“The first woman on the Moon will be an American woman and the first nation to land on Mars will be the United States of America.
“Space travel is not a feat of engineering alone, it’s also a moral endeavour, a measure of a nation’s vision, its willpower and its place in the world.
“Exploration is a test of our values.
“The best is yet to come,’’ the president told Americans, who had cause to celebrate in what has been a trying period for the country.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft, built by a private American aerospace manufacturing company, SpaceX, blasted off the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 3.22 p.m. (8.22 p.m. on Saturday Nigerian time).
Onboard the capsule are America astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who are on a 19-hour journey to the International Space Station.
This is the country’s first human spaceflight through a government-private partnership between the U.S. space agency, NASA and SpaceX.
The STS-135 mission of July 8, 2011, was the last time the U.S. launched astronauts from its soil.
Between then and the latest mission, the U.S. astronauts were flown to the International Space Station through the Soyuz Capsule in Russia.
Tagged “Launch America”, the mission was originally scheduled to begin on Wednesday but had to be postponed just 17 minutes to launch due to bad weather.
According to vox.com, it is an expensive mission that is supposed to cost $86 million per astronaut.
But SpaceX is reportedly charging only $55 million dollars per astronaut for one complete round trip.
Trump acknowledged this when he said the NASA-SpaceX partnership had given America “an unmatched power” in a spaceship that puts astronauts into orbit “at a fraction of the cost of the space shuttle’’.
By this development, space exploration is no longer limited to the government.
NASA’s administrator, Mr Jim Bridenstine, told newsmen prior to the launch that space exploration would neither be successful nor sustainable if “government is the only one doing things in space’’.