Trump's commerce secretary wants to turn the moon into a 'gas station for outer space'

  • 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.

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Wilbur Ross's time as Commerce Secretary
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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.

Ross also praised SpaceX's Elon Musk for the recent launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket and said the administration wants to cut down on regulations for commercial space travel as a way to encourage more competition.

"It was really quite an amazing thing," Ross said of the SpaceX launch. "At the end of it, you have that little red Tesla hurdling off to an orbit around the sun and the moon.

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Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
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Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
Hope Hicks: Former White House Director of Strategic Communications
Melania Trump: Wife to President Trump and first lady of the United States
Gary Cohn: Former Director of the U.S. National Economic Council
Michael Flynn: Former National Security Advisor, no longer with the Trump administration
Ivanka Trump: First daughter and presidential adviser
Gen. John Kelly: Former Secretary of Homeland Security, current White House chief of staff
Steve Bannon: Former White House chief strategist, no longer with the Trump administration
Jared Kushner: Son-in-law and senior adviser
Kellyanne Conway: Former Trump campaign manager, current counselor to the president
Reince Priebus: Former White House chief of staff, no longer with the Trump administration
Anthony Scaramucci: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: White House press secretary
Donald Trump Jr.: First son to President Trump
Sean Spicer: Former White House press secretary, soon to be no longer with the Trump administration
Jeff Sessions: U.S. attorney general
Steve Mnuchin: Secretary of Treasury
Paul Manafort: Former Trump campaign chairman
Carter Page: Former foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign
Omarosa Manigault: Former Director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison
Jason Miller: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Mike Dubke: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Stephen Miller: Trump senior policy adviser
Corey Lewandowski: Former Trump campaign manager
Eric Trump: Son to President Trump
Rex Tillerson: Former Secretary of State
Sebastian Gorka: Former deputy assistant to the president in the Trump administration, no longer in his White House role
Roger Stone: Former Trump campaign adviser, current host of Stone Cold Truth
Betsy DeVos: U.S. Education Secretary
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