US President Donald Trump has signed a new bill authorising nearly USD 20 billion for NASA programmes, that include human exploration of the red planet.
The NASA Transition Authorisation Act gives the agency USD 19.5 billion for 2018. The legislation also asks it to chalk out a plan to send a "crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s."
Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Trump signed the bill in his Oval Office at the White House, and with that he opened a new vista in the quest for human exploration of the space.
He said the bill, which amends current law to add human exploration of the red planet as a goal for the agency, will make sure NASA's most important programmes are sustained.
"For almost six decades NASA's work has inspired millions and millions of Americans to imagine distant worlds and a better future right here on Earth," Trump said. "I'm delighted to sign this bill. It's been a long time since a bill like this has been signed, reaffirming our commitment to the core mission of NASA: human space exploration, space science and technology."
Trump praised the bill as a job creator and boon for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
"It's about jobs. Also this bill calls for ongoing medical monitoring and treatment of our heroic astronauts for health conditions that result from their service," Trump said.
"It advances space science by maintaining a balanced set of mission and activities to explore our solar system and the entire universe and it ensures that, through NASA's astronauts and aeronautics research, the US will remain a total leader in aviation," he said.
Also, the bill supports use of the International Space Station through 2024.
NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot said the continuing support for NASA ensures the space programme will remain the leader in exploration and scientific achievement.
Senator Marco Rubio said in a statement that this law will promote innovation, support NASA's Space Launch System and Orion programmes, improve collaboration between the agency and commercial space sector.
The Pioneer, March 22, 2017