UI Researchers react to President Trump's hope to send astronauts back to the moon

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- President Trump wants to send astronauts back to the moon, and eventually he hopes to Mars.

The directive from the president is giving some University of Iowa space projects some hope.

Researchers there are already working on quite a few different projects in space and only want that number to continue to increase.

Doctoral students like Daniel LaRocca tinker for hours a day on cube satellite models.

“We have our high voltage power supplies here at the bottom,” he said.

One of these, called the Halo Sat, NASA will launch into space in a matter of days.

"I wouldn't have the opportunity to launch this thing except for that fact we're feeding astronauts up in the space station,” Professor Philip Kaaret said.

Kaaret works with students on these research projects.

The Halo Sat will go up with food for astronauts at the space station. After that the satellite will go deeper in the galaxy to collect data about certain gasses.

“It enables students all across the country to actually build a thing that’s actually carried into space,” Kaaret said.

So the thought of more space projects, like going to the moon, adds hope for growing student and staff's own research.

Kaaret also hopes it stirs up more excitement.

"So when I was a kid it was the time of Apollo Missions, which will tell you how long I've been in research,” Kaaret said. “That was a big part of me getting into science was excitement and I don't know any kid now that has a space station poster in their room."

This time Kaaret hopes it's a more collaborative effort, and not just a government program.

"Or if we try to as much as possible use the commercial space sector that we're just now getting to have."

And if U.S. astronauts go to the moon again, Kaaret says there needs to be a continuous presence.

"This time we go back to the moon and we stay there, and we really make space exploration and travel into space commercially viable so that it's part of the economy and we keep moving forward,” Kaaret said.

Pushing ahead with space research, either with travel or projects like this one.

"More and more I've enjoyed working the instrumentation side of things and building these instruments,” LaRocca said.

There are many other researchers that don't believe it's necessary to put people in space. Their argument is that satellites or other artificial intelligence do just as good of a job.

Others are concerned with the cost of these potential space exploration trips.

In recent years, both Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush proposed similar trips but never received federal funding.