Donald Trump Wants to Create a Space Force. Here’s How Much the U.S. Military Currently Spends on Space Programs.

President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon on June 18 to create “Space Force,” a sixth branch of the U.S. military. In doing so, he referred to space as a national security issue. While a price tag for the project was not immediately available, the Defense Department requested $12.5 billion for national security space in 2019.

Trump’s plan to add the new military branch stems from his desire to dominate other countries regarding space. “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space,” Trump said at the White House Monday. “We must have American dominance in space.” He called space a national security issue.

Budget-wise, the Air Force currently gets the majority of the funds set aside for national security space, at $11.4 billion. The rest of the money goes toward space programs run by the Army, Navy, office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Trump called the new Space Force “separate but equal” to the Air Force. He did not provide details on what the military role of the new branch would be or who would lead it. He said the United States will “be the leader by far” in space and seeks to return to the moon and to reach Mars.

Cost of putting a man on the moon

Apollo 14 Commander Alan Shepard playing golf

Returning to the moon will cost a fortune. | NASA

Returning to the moon would likely cost upwards of $104 billion. That’s the number NASA floated for the project in 2005 under President George W. Bush. (President Obama subsequently canceled the project.)

The Trump administration did not provide a modern cost estimate for the manned lunar project. Its first crewed lunar mission is planned for 2023. Plans for humans to reach Mars are set for the 2030s.

The president’s announcement surprised some

Donald Trump

Donald Trump | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The cost of such a program is why many found Trump’s Monday announcement surprising. In 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, a Trump appointee, opposed a “space corps” due in part to the cost. “This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money,” she told reporters. “If I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy.”

Congress rejected a proposal last year which would have created the space corps. In 2018’s defense budget bill, both the House and Senate decided against the idea. Rather, they preferred to keep space defense under the Air Force’s umbrella.

What each American spends on space projects

In the ’60s, NASA received $26 per year from every U.S. taxpayer. | NASA/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to set foot on the moon. For three hours, the two astronauts walked around, did experiments, and gathered rocks.  At the time, the mission cost each American citizen $26 per year. In 2015 dollars, that would come to more than $200 to the space administration per person — which would come out to $65 billion per year. Instead, in 2014, each citizen paid around $54 to NASA.

By way of comparison, each citizen paid only about $0.41 per year to put the SUV-sized Curiosity rover on Mars.

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