It's been 45 years to the day since the Apollo 17 mission put man on the moon for the last time. So it seemed fitting on this anniversary that US President Donald Trump announced his plan for the next trip to the lunar surface.

Mr Trump has signed a policy directive telling NASA to gear up for the mission, which will hopefully act as a stepping stone to putting humans on Mars for the first time.

Credit: White House/NASA

The last living member of the Apollo 17 team, Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt, was at the press conference where the American leader explained his desire to resume space exploration, telling reporters: "Forty-five years ago, almost to the minute, Jack became one of the last Americans to land on the Moon.

"Today we pledge that he will not be the last, and I suspect we will be finding some other places to land other than the Moon.

"The directive I am signing today will refocus the space programme on human exploration and discovery. It is an important step in returning American astronauts to the Moon, for the first time since 1972 for long time exploration and use.

"This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond."

According to Quartz, three previous administrations have pledged the same thing as Mr Trump, but each have been plagued by financial and political restraints. However, the website highlights private companies, like Moon Express and Astrobotic, are keen to help to get the job done quickly.

Sky News said the US President added America was the leader of space technology and exploration and he wanted that title to remain - which begs the question of whether he wants to do this to further human progress or just for bragging rights.

While there was excitement about the plan on social media - many were making the same joke.

NASA has recently been focusing on its new giant rocket and deep space capsule, but if the funds are approved for Mr Trump's mission, the space agency will redirect its attention on putting man on the moon.

Before today, the capsule was supposed to have a test flight in 2019 and NASA was planning on attaching its first human crew in 2022.

The space agency will also be in a race against Elon Musk's company SpaceX, which has outlined its intentions of a private trip to the moon (but not landing on it) by next year. Boeing also hopes to launch a space transportation system in 2018, so there appears to be no shortage of ambition to get into space.

Only time will tell if Mr Trump's directive today ends up getting humans on Mars.

Sources: Sky News, Quartz, NPR

Featured Image Credit: PA

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