President Donald Trump may be a fan of human spaceflight, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to visit the final frontier himself.
During a conversation with NASA chief Jim Bridenstine on Friday (April 24), the president, whose administration has directed NASA to land astronauts on the moon by 2024, expressed a distinct lack of interest in flying aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft.
Bridenstine was visiting the White House to brief Trump on some of NASA’s contributions to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which include a new ventilator designed and built by engineers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. At one point, the conversation turned to Virgin Galactic, which is wrapping up the test campaign of its newest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity.
As I told @POTUS earlier today at the White House, rocket scientists do amazing things even when working from home. Watch this @NBCNews video clip from today’s meeting to hear about our workforce’s innovation to combat coronavirus and learn more at https://t.co/Bqck6e7gxQ. pic.twitter.com/nItZzJZG58April 24, 2020
After Bridenstine explained what flying aboard VSS Unity would be like, Trump asked him, “Would you do it?”
“I would absolutely do it. Are you kidding? In a heartbeat,” replied Bridenstine, a former Navy fighter pilot who flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I’ll pass,” Trump responded.
But maybe the president is just holding out for an orbital experience. We’ll have to wait to hear his thoughts about taking a trip on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which is scheduled to launch astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time on May 27.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.