It seems U.S. President Donald J. Trump won’t let up with the possibility of going to Mars earlier than expected and insisted that it’s possible to go to the Red Planet first before launching a new mission to the Moon. 

During the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon mission, President Trump asked NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine why it won’t be possible for astronauts to head straight to Mars instead of working on a lunar mission. 

“To get to Mars, you have to land on the Moon, they say. Any way of going directly without landing on the Moon? Is that a possibility?” Trump can be heard asking in a recording shared by Politico

Per The Verge, the question was asked during a photo op held at the Oval Office. Aside from Bridenstine, also present were other NASA officials, lawmakers and some of the original “moonwalkers.” Trump also took the opportunity to ask about his administration’s current deep space human exploration policies. 

When asked the question, the NASA administrator replied that a Moon mission is an important “proving ground” that would eventually help the space agency to ensure that a Mars mission would be successful. In essence, going to the Moon to test out technologies that would be needed to keep astronauts alive during a months-long mission would be safer. 

“When we go to Mars we’re going to have to be there for a long period of time, so we need to learn how to live and work on another world,” Bridenstine said.

Trump's insistence on going to Mars first is considered by some as a surprising turn since the President’s very first space directive back in 2017 was instructing NASA to go back to the Moon and establish U.S. presence there. 

“Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations,” the directive said.

NASA already set a Moon comeback before Vice President Mike Pence issued a new challenge that pretty much moved up the deadline from 2028 to 2024 instead. To date, the U.S. space agency is working hard to accomplish this ambitious mission dubbed Artemis. 

It is a crucial time for NASA since it is currently being challenged by China, which is already building a very strong space presence to bring humans to the Moon. 

mars An image of Mars' Nili Fossae region taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Photo: NASA/Christopher Kremer/Brown University