The Trump administration has requested NASA to figure out how to send men to the moon by 2019. The space agency is to spend the next month doing a study on the feasibility of such a mission using the recently tested Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule.
An unmanned mission was intended to be launched using the technology in 2018, but the addition of a crew would require the equipment to be modified to include life support systems, abort systems and display panels. NASA seems to be responding positively to the request, according to the Daily Caller:
NASA already planned to send an unmanned SLS rocket with an Orion capsule to orbit the Moon, but will accelerate the program to send astronauts on the previously unmanned mission in late 2019. One Trump adviser told The Washington Post adding astronauts to the project is intended to be “a clear signal” to the Chinese that the U.S. will retain its dominance in space.
The mission would take two astronauts to the moon and back in the next two years. President Trump reportedly wants to follow up the mission by sending U.S. astronauts to Mars, and leaked documents suggest that he wants to build large privately-owned space stations and begin “the large-scale economic development of space.” NASA has stated that they plan to prioritize economic gains over exploration, saying that “done correctly, this could create a trillion-dollar per year space economy, dominated by America.”