Dec. 11 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Monday signed a directive to send U.S. astronauts back to the moon, an order he said would restore American leadership in space.
The directive comes on the 45th anniversary of the day Apollo 17 put the last U.S. astronauts on the moon.
Trump's directive ordered NASA to send U.S. astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972 and establish eventual travel to Mars.
"This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond," he said. "This directive will ensure America's space program once again leads and inspires all of humanity."
Trump also praised the order because "it also happens to mean jobs."
The White House said the United States would work with international partners and private companies to reach the moon and Mars.
"This is a giant step toward inspiring that future," he said. "We are the leader and we are going to stay the leader."
The National Space Council, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, recommended the action to Trump. Pence said Monday the order will lead to a "renewed American presence on the moon."
"We will also spur innovation as the space program has always done," the vice president said.