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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.

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

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.”

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“Sir, I appreciate that,” replied Bridenstine.

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.”

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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.

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.

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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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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Bill Maher dances on David Koch’s grave: ‘I’m glad he’s dead and I hope the end was painful’

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HBO "Real Time" host Bill Maher celebrated the death of right-wing billionaire David Koch, who died of prostate cancer.

"I guess I'm going to have to reevaluate my low opinion of prostate cancer," Maher said.

"Condolences poured in from all the politicians he owned and mourners are being asked, in lieu of flowers, to just leave their car engine running," he said.

"I know these seem like harsh words and harsh jokes, and I'm sure I will be condemned for them on Fox News, which will portray Mr. Koch as a principled libertarian who believed in the free market," Maher said. "He and his brother have done more than anybody to fund climate science deniers -- for decades."

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HBO’s Bill Maher slams Trump’s White House lawn press conferences: ‘Brought to you by Adderall’

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HBO's "Real Time" host Bill Maher ripped Donald Trump on Friday.

"I've had so many sh*tty weeks, but this was a sh*tty week, I'm telling you," Maher said.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) called for a boycott of Maher's show this week.

"The one bright spot I could find, Trump finally found some white people to fight with. Denmark. He's fighting with Denmark, because, you know this, he's been wanting to buy Greenland

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Rachel Maddow reveals 9 major reasons so many Democrats are running against Trump in 2020

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The host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC listed nine major reasons Democrats are running to take on President Donald Trump in 2020.

"As we close in on the third round of Democratic presidential primary debates, the acute angle of the funnel that the candidates are going through right now is starting to pinch a little bit," Maddow noted.

"I think it’s fair to say that the Democratic Party knew that a lot of people were going to get into this presidential primary to try to earn the right to challenge this incumbent president. Right? It’s not rocket science to figure that out," she continued. "It’s nothing personal about the president."

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