President Donald Trump's administration wants to send Americans back to the moon as soon as possible. To do that, Trump is looking to privatize NASA, so that it can focus on "the large-scale economic development of space."
Trump is looking to put astronauts back on the moon within three years while jumpstarting the development of private space stations, according to internal documents obtained by Politico.
"NASA's new strategy will prioritize economic growth and the organic creation of new industries and private sector jobs, over 'exploration' and other esoteric activities," reads a portion of the NASA agency action plan, according to Politico. "Done correctly, this could create a trillion-dollar per year space economy, dominated by America."
This new focus would financially benefit tech billionaires who have invested large sums of money into private space innovation, where some say the future lies.
"This may be the biggest and most public privatization effort America has ever conducted," says the NASA summary.
One of the more ambitious of these private ventures, according to the documents, aims to "see private American astronauts, on private space ships, circling the Moon by 2020; and private lunar landers staking out de facto 'property rights' for America on the Moon, by 2020 as well."
The Atlantic notes that this approach would violate the United Nations Outer Space Treaty, the set of principles that dozens of nations have followed since the late 1960s. It would also put the U.S. at odds with China, a nation working to develop its own space exploration, which includes landing a rover on the far side of the moon for the first time.
Trump said throughout his presidential campaign that NASA and space exploration are essential to his vision of America’s future, although he intends to privatize the space industry to create jobs while leaving the loftier missions to NASA.
"NASA has been one of the most important agencies in the United States government for most of my lifetime," Trump told an Aerospace America Questionnaire in May 2016, according to The Planetary Society. "NASA should focus on stretching the envelope of space exploration for we have so much to discover and to date we have only scratched the surface."