By the way, says Trump, I’m going to ‘top’ Kennedy by sending astronauts to Mars

US President’s casual remarks came on same day that Vladimir Putin announced unmanned Russian mission to Mars next year

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 2:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 2:53pm

Forget the moon, the US is going to Mars, maybe.

President Donald Trump said Thursday he wants to “top” President John F. Kennedy and send astronauts to the Red Planet.

“We’re looking at Mars, by the way,” Trump told lawmakers during a Friends of Ireland lunch on Capitol Hill.

Trump, who only days ago proposed an interplanetary “space force,” was applauding Kennedy’s vision of reaching the moon during the “space race” of the 1960s when he promised to go where no man has gone before.

“Trying to top [Kennedy],” Trump said. “We’re going to get there. It’s moving along pretty good. A lot of things have happened … Way ahead of schedule.”

The US became the first country to send a manned mission to the moon in 1969, six years after Kennedy was assassinated.

But Trump isn’t just competing against the past.

Possibly reigniting a brand new “space race,” Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to beat the US to Mars and said Moscow will launch an unmanned mission to Earth’s neighbour next year.

“Very soon, in 2019, we’re going to launch a mission toward Mars,” Putin said in a new documentary film that was posted on Russian social media Thursday.

Trump, in turn, said Tuesday that the US will make it Mars “very soon,” telling a crowd of Marines at the Miramar military base in California that he joked about creating another defence branch to deal with threats from the cosmos.

“Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said.

Trump has also talked about returning to the moon and has recently praised the accomplishments of the private SpaceX company and its founder, Elon Musk.

Last month Musk’s brainchild succeeded in the maiden launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful rocket in the world.

Two of the rocket’s three boosters returned to Earth simultaneously, landing side-by-side on concrete pads just a few kilometres away from where the rocket launched.

“Rich guys, they love rocket ships,” Trump said last week, pointing out rocket models he had placed on a table before him.