If anyone wants definitive evidence that Donald Trump is losing, or has lost, his marbles, he gave a huge hint today. He tweeted that the moon is part of Mars. Um, I think most astronomers see them as quite distinct.
Depending on one’s perspective, equally worrisome, if not more so, his emphatic declaration that NASA should “NOT be talking about going to the moon” contradicts the directive he issued on December 11, 2017, roughly eighteen months ago, to NASA to “refocus” on… you guessed it, “returning American astronauts to the Moon.”
Anyone who was inclined to be more kind to Trump than he is to anyone else might suggest that his bizarre claim about the moon being part of Mars was just a particularly inept way of repeating his earlier claim that sending a mission to the moon was a “first step,” with Mars being the obvious, if implicit, next step he refers to in this tweet.
This relatively charitable reading of today’s tweet still leaves us with the puzzlement that he emphatically denounced NASA for “talking about going to the moon” when he signed a directive instructing them to take “a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon” a mere eighteen months ago. The older tweet does have a level of coherence that suggests that someone else wrote it, so maybe he can repudiate that one as not being his.
That Trump apparently cannot remember what he instructed a federal agency to do eighteen months ago is worrisome indeed. One feels particular sympathy for the people at NASA who now have to figure out if they should work on another mission to the moon or not. That is a huge undertaking. The one point Trump seems to grasp is that putting astronauts on the moon again would be useful in various ways for figuring out how to get them all the way to Mars, and the folks at NASA, being mostly engineers, likely do like to break projects down into discrete chunks, but one also supposes that they like to have clear direction from the political leaders who will decide how much money they have to spend.
One also supposed that the general public would like to have a president who clearly exhibits the capacity for rational thought and exposition, and the ability to remember major policy directives for more than eighteen months.
We’re not going to get that from Trump.