The commander in chief signed the bill surrounded by astronauts and his former Republican rivals, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who both sponsored the bill.
Getting to Mars, though, isn’t expected to happen during the Trump presidency. NASA has its sights set on getting to the red planet in the 2030’s.
The bill signed by President Trump is the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which sets a $19.5 billion budget for the agency for fiscal year 2017.
The bill — S.442 — is the first NASA authorization bill to reach a U.S. president’s desk since 2010. Trump signed the bill into law today (March 21) during a televised ceremony in the Oval Office. He was joined by NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Chris Cassidy, who presented the commander in chief with a NASA flight jacket.
Following the signing, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the White House will re-establish a National Space Council. The first iteration of a presidential space council was formed in 1958 under Dwight D. Eisenhower, and was dissolved in 1973. A new council was formed in 1989 under President George H. W. Bush, only to be dissolved again in 1993. The council has served to advise the president on space issues, but its value has been debated by spaceflight policy experts. Pence will chair the council, and he said that its members will include representatives from both NASA and the private sector. [Presidential Visions for NASA Throughout History]