U.S. President Donald Trump holds a space astronaut toy as he participates in a signing ceremony for Space Policy Directive at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., December 11, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON - 12 December 2017: At a time when China is working on an ambitious lunar program, President Donald Trump vowed on Monday that the United States will remain the leader in space exploration as he began a process to return Americans to the moon.
"We are the leader and we're going to stay the leader, and we're going to increase it many fold," Trump said in signing "Space Policy Directive 1" that establishes a foundation for a mission to the moon and eventually, to Mars.
Back in June, China's space official said the country was making “preliminary” preparations to send a man to the moon, the latest goal in China’s ambitious lunar exploration program.
Trump's signing ceremony for the directive included former lunar astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jack Schmitt and current astronaut Peggy Whitson, whose 665 days in orbit is more time in space than any other American and any other woman worldwide.
Trump said he was taking a giant step toward "reclaiming America's proud destiny in space."
"And space has so much to do with so many other applications, including a military application," he said without elaboration.