Australia to help Trump reach the moon, and beyond

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US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison talk during a ceremony to arrive at the South White House lawn in Washington, USA, on September 20, 2019. REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia will invest $ 150 million ($ 101 million) in its companies and technology to help US President Donald Trump's bid for a moon landing by 2024 and subsequent US missions to Mars, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the weekend.

Morrison, visiting NASA's Washington headquarters, said the five-year investment plan would help companies support US automation systems, build spacecraft equipment and play a role in mineral exploration.

"We support Australian companies on the moon, and even on Mars, and vice versa," said Morrison.

The announcement came after Morrison made a state visit to the White House on Friday with the red carpet extended, signaling Australia's strong ties with the United States after a period of tense relations with China.

The investment is part of a larger Australian plan to bolster its space sector, with Morrison saying the government wants to triple the size of the sector to $ 12 billion and create about 20,000 extra jobs by 2030.

Trump, when asked at a news conference with Morrison about the US space program, said the focus was on Mars.

"We're stopping on the moon," he said, according to a transcript.

“The moon is actually a launch pad. This is why we are stopping on the moon. I said, “Hey, we already made the moon. This is not so exciting. They said, "No, sir, it's a launch pad for Mars." So we will be making the moon, but we will actually be making Mars. "

Report by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Robert Birsel

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