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White House: Biden supports NASA program to send astronauts to moon

White House: Biden supports NASA program to send astronauts to moon
White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds her daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 4 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden supports NASA's plan to return Americans to the surface of the moon, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday, relieving some doubt as to the fate of the Trump-era Artemis program under the new administration.

The Trump administration called for NASA to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 as part of an overall mission to ultimately send humans to Mars. But with weak congressional funding for the program and a presidential transition, it was unclear whether that goal would -- or even could -- be met.

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"Through the Artemis program, the United States will work with industry and international partners to send astronauts to the surface of the moon ... conduct new and exciting science, prepare for future missions to Mars, and demonstrate America's values," Psaki said during Thursday's press briefing.

"Lunar exploration has broad and bicameral support in Congress, most recently detailed in the fiscal year 2021 omnibus spending bill and certainly we support this effort and endeavor."

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This fiscal year, NASA sought $3.2 billion for a human landing system to meet the 2024 target, but Congress approved less than one-third of that -- $850 million.

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NASA said the overall Artemis program would cost in the neighborhood of $28 billion. It's meant to be a precursor to eventually sending Americans to Mars.

The first Artemis mission is to send an uncrewed launch on a new rocket called the Space Launch System in November. NASA's behind schedule testing the SLS' core stage after a brief shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and hurricanes near the launch site.

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Also Thursday, Psaki told reporters Biden would "love to see action" by Congress on gun-control measures. She was asked about the issue in reaction to a Washington Post report showing an increase in gun sales after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

"This is an issue [Biden] is personally committed to," Psaki said. "And, you know, I think he would love to see action on additional gun safety measures to protect families and children and knows that there is support across the American public for that."

Paul Brinkmann contributed to this report.

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