President signs bill to authorize funding for NASA, make Mars exploration a goal

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a bill signing ceremony as NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson and legislators, including Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL), Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), look on in the Oval Office of the White House March 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump has signed S.442 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 into law. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that adds exploration of Mars as a NASA goal.

The new law also authorizes $19.5 billion in space agency funding for the 2018 budget year, which starts Oct. 1. Trump recently sent Congress a budget proposal that authorizes $19.1 billion for the space agency next year, down slightly from the current year.

The new law amends current law to add human exploration of Mars as one of NASA’s objectives. It also directs NASA to manage human space flight programs to help humans to explore Mars and other destinations.

Trump signed the bill Tuesday in the Oval Office surrounded by astronauts and bill sponsors, including Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Both senators challenged Trump during the presidential campaign.