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Trump pits Apollo 11 astronauts against NASA chief — he thinks he understands space travel better

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President Donald Trump welcomed surviving Apollo 11 crew members Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the White House Friday, using the occasion to tell his space chief he would prefer to go straight to Mars without returning to the Moon.

It is a theme he had touched upon earlier this month in a tweet, and this time drew on the support of the two former astronauts, who are taking part in celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of their mission, to make his case to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

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“To get to Mars, you have to land on the Moon, they say,” said Trump, without looking convinced.

Bridenstine launched into a well-rehearsed summary of NASA position: Earth’s natural satellite is the right setting to perfect the technology needed to keep humans alive for long periods elsewhere, and will be a gateway for launching missions deeper into the solar system.

Trump then turned to his right to ask Collins what he thought.

“Mars direct,” said the 88-year-old, without hesitating.

“It seems to me Mars direct, who knows better than these people?” replied Trump, forcing Bridenstine onto the defensive once again.

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The president mused that appointing Bridenstine had not been “that easy of a decision for me” and that he had not always supported Trump when he was a Republican congressman.

But Trump ultimately expressed his confidence in the administrator, telling Bridenstine: “You’ve done a fantastic job.”

“Sir, I appreciate that,” replied Bridenstine.

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Later, Trump asked Aldrin to weigh in with his thoughts on the state of US space exploration.

“Frankly, I’ve been a little disappointed over the last 10 or 15 years,” said Aldrin, noting progress had slowed and that despite having the premier technology, the US could not currently achieve lunar orbit.

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– ‘NASA’s back’ –

Trump then turned to Bridenstine and asked: “How do you feel about that, Jim?”

As Bridenstine explained work being done on the Orion crew capsule, Trump said: “We’ll I’d like to have you also listen to the other side.

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“Because some people would like to do it a different way. So you’ll listen to Buzz and some of the other people.”

“Yes, sir,” said Bridenstine.

Earlier, the president had hailed his administration’s efforts to reinvigorate space exploration, declaring: “NASA’s back.”

With the Apollo 11 Moon landing, the US achieved the ultimate victory in the Space Race after losing the initial heats to the Soviet Union, which was first to put a satellite and then a man in space.

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The undertaking, announced by president John F Kennedy in 1961 and partly spurred by the Bay of Pigs crisis, involved enormous spending rivaled in scope only by the construction of the Panama Canal and the Manhattan Project.

It was a resounding achievement not just from a technical perspective but also diplomatic, as the two super powers jostled for global prestige in the Cold War.

Trump has relaunched the race to re-conquer the Moon — this time with the first woman — and to journey onwards to the Red Planet.

But the deadlines — 2024 and 2033 respectively — appear unrealistic and have caused turbulence within the space agency.

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GOP senator admits she’s hoping Trump’s Ukraine scheme successfully sinks Biden

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In a press conference with reporters on Monday, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) gave the game away by implying she hopes that President Donald Trump's scheme to dig up foreign dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden successfully sinks his candidacy and causes him to lose the Democratic caucuses in her state.

"Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening. And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus goers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?"

The remarks came after White House lawyers spent hours trying to change the subject from Trump's attempts to extort the president of Ukraine with military aid, to the conspiracy theory surrounding Biden's son's work in Ukraine that he had been demanding they pursue.

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Republicans defended ‘a vile scoundrel’ who is ‘racist’ and ‘a petty tyrant’ — and it wasn’t Donald Trump

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President Donald Trump's defense attorneys were blasted for their defense of a different president on Tuesday.

"I mean, of course Trump's lawyers are defending Andrew Johnson. Of course," noted MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes.

"Johnson was a vile scoundrel and a drunk and a racist and a petty tyrant whose presidency brought blood and shame upon this nation," Hayes continued. "That's the kindest characterization I could muster."

The host linked to a 2019 piece on Johnson that he wrote for The New York Times as a book review of "The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation by Brenda Wineapple.

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Trump lawyer cites former GOP senator to discredit impeachment — but leaves out he supports convicting the president

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During the Senate impeachment trial on Monday, White House lawyer Robert Ray attempted to contrast the impeachment of President Donald Trump with that of President Richard Nixon, by arguing that unlike in the former case, Republicans came together with Democrats to call for removing Nixon. As part of the comparison, he brought up then-Rep. William Cohen, who went on to become a U.S. senator from Maine and Secretary of Defense for President Bill Clinton.

"Together these six Republicans made history," said Ray. "They did so with no sense of triumph and no fist bumps."

What Ray chose not to mention, however, is that Cohen has specifically weighed in on the Trump case, and said that he should be impeached and removed over the Ukraine scheme.

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