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Trump Adds to NASA Budget, Approves Crewed Mission to Mars

President Trump has signed a bill funding a crewed mission to Mars.
Image: US President Donald J. Trump Signs NASA Transition Authorization Act
President Donald Trump speaks after signing the NASA transition authorization act in the Oval Office of the White House on March 21.Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool via Getty Images

President Donald Trump signed a law on Tuesday authorizing funding for a crewed NASA mission to Mars.

The new bill adds a crewed mission to the red planet as a key NASA objective and authorizes the space agency to direct test human space flight programs that will enable more crewed exploration in deep space.

The space agency has $19.5 billion in funding for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts this October. Trump had allocated $19.1 billion for NASA in his budget, which is slightly down from the current year, but still an improvement from the past decade, which saw the end of the space shuttle program.

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 2030s.

Related: Elon Musk Makes His Case for Colonizing Mars

NASA laid out its plan for Mars in a 36-page report, detailing milestones the space agency must hit over the next few years to help ensure a successful future trek into deep space.

In the near term, NASA plans to test its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, in addition to visiting an asteroid and redirecting a chunk of it into orbit around the moon. Astronauts could later visit the boulder and use the mission to test some of the tools needed for a Mars mission.

The president tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that he was honored to support NASA's "pursuit of discovery."