Science

Trump's commerce secretary wants to turn the moon into a 'gas station for outer space'

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President Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossDrew Angerer/Getty Images

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said one of the Trump administration’s goals is to turn the moon “into a kind of gas station for outer space.” 
  • The idea has been floated before, with a recent study suggesting a refueling station on the moon could save huge amounts of energy.
  • Ross also praised Elon Musk for the recent launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket and said the Trump administration wants to push deregulating commercial space exploration.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that the Trump administration’s goals include using the moon as a way station for expeditions to explore deeper parts of the solar system.

“A lot depends upon how successful we are in turning the moon into a kind of gas station for outer space,” Ross said Thursday morning on CNBC.

President Donald Trump appointed Ross, a former private equity investor, as the point person to advance commercial space initiatives and as a member of the reconstituted National Space Council.

In Ross’s conception, expeditions would first go from the Earth to the moon — then they would use ice from the moon’s craters to refuel on their way to other destinations. 

“The plan is to break down the ice into hydrogen and oxygen, use those as the fuel propellant,” Ross said.

The idea isn’t too far-fetched: The concept of the moon as a pit stop on the way to deeper space has been the subject of various studies that show it could cut down on energy use.

The Trump administration has recently announced initiatives to ramp up the commercial exploration in space, such as a proposal to turn over the operation of the International Space Station and low-orbit operations to private partners.

Ross also praised SpaceX’s Elon Musk for the recent launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket and said the administration wants to cut down on regulations for commercial space travel as a way to encourage more competition.

It was really quite an amazing thing,” Ross said of the SpaceX launch. “At the end of it, you have that little red Tesla hurdling off to an orbit around the sun and the moon.

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