Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said one of the Trump administration's goals is to turn the moon "into a kind of gas station for outer space."
The idea has been floated before, with a recent study suggesting a refueling station on the moon could save huge amounts of energy.
Ross also praised Elon Musk for the recent launch of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket and said the Trump administration wants to push deregulating commercial space exploration.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that the Trump administration's goals include using the moon as a way station for expeditions to explore deeper parts of the solar system.
"A lot depends upon how successful we are in turning the moon into a kind of gas station for outer space," Ross said Thursday morning on CNBC.
President Donald Trump appointed Ross, a former private equity investor, as the point person to advance commercial space initiatives and as a member of the reconstituted National Space Council.
Wilbur Ross's time as Commerce Secretary
Wilbur Ross's time as Commerce Secretary
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks to the Economic Club of New York in New York City, U.S., October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stands behind U.S. President Donald Trump, who speaks at the Minority Enterprise Development Week White House awards ceremony, at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Defense Secretary James Mattis listen as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with members of his cabinet at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks next to U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad during a bilateral meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, China, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang before a bilateral meeting at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing, China, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (3rd R) and Vice President Mike Pence (2nd R) join U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) for an event highlighting emerging technologies, in the East Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testifies before a House Appropriations Subcommittee about the newly released 2018 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross speaks next to Press Secretary Sean Spicer about new tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber from the White House in Washington, U.S. April 25, 2017.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is welcomed by Japan's Minister of Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko at the start of their talks in Tokyo, Japan April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) swears in Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce as his wife Hilary watches, in Washington, DC, U.S. February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Wilbur Ross speaks, as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence watches, after being sworn in as Secretary of Commerce in Washington, DC, U.S. February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, chairman of Invesco Ltd subsidiary WL Ross & Co, departs Trump Tower after a meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York, U.S., November 29, 2016. Picture taken November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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In Ross's conception, expeditions would first go from the Earth to the moon — then they would use ice from the moon's craters to refuel on their way to other destinations.
"The plan is to break down the ice into hydrogen and oxygen, use those as the fuel propellant," Ross said.
The idea isn't too far-fetched: The concept of the moon as a pit stop on the way to deeper space has been the subject of various studies that show it could cut down on energy use.
The Trump administration has recently announced initiatives to ramp up the commercial exploration in space, such as a proposal to turn over the operation of the International Space Station and low-orbit operations to private partners.