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Morrison Announces Australia Will Be 'Doing Mars' With Trump

Australians will work closely with NASA in the efforts to send humans back to the moon within five years, then on to Mars.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the American space agency's headquarters in Washington DC on Saturday morning and announced $150 million to help Australians latch on to NASA's plans to head back to the moon by 2024.

"We're backing Australian businesses to the moon, and even Mars, and back," Morrison said.

The Australian Space Agency has signed a joint statement of intent on expanding cooperation with NASA.

Morrison at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo: AAP

Trump had earlier surprised some by announcing the Mars mission, staying effusive about the plan at the start of his meeting with Morrison in the Oval Office.

"I said, 'Hey we've already done the moon, that's not so exciting'.They said, 'No sir, it's a launching pad for Mars'," he told reporters.

"So we'll be doing the moon but we'll really be doing Mars."

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It continues a partnership on space missions that has covered six decades.

Morrison and Trump plan to go back to the Moon, then Mars. Photo: AAP

"There is enormous opportunity for Australia's space sector which is why we want to triple its size to $12 billion to create around 20,000 extra jobs by 2030," Morrison said.

"The growing amount of space sector work and innovation will also inspire the next generation to see the future of a career in these fields for the long term."

Australia played an integral role in the first moon landing 50 years ago, with the tracking station at Honeysuckle Creek helping to beam the images of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin taking their first lunar steps around the world.

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Now, the government envisages Australians using their experiences to develop things like Earth-to-moon communications systems, robots for use in space based on automation at mines, remote medicine drawing on our delivery of health services to places like Antarctica and the Pilbara, and very small satellites that deliver very high-resolution images.

Photo: AAP

It says these technologies won't just help future astronauts but people living in remote and regional Australia too.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said he couldn't be more excited about the deal between NASA and the Adelaide-based Australian Space Agency.

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"It's a pretty exciting project to be involved in - assisting NASA getting to the moon," he told reporters in Adelaide.

"I know there are already a lot of young people getting super excited about the opportunities for jobs in the space sector. They're going to wake up today even more excited after hearing that we're going to be a part of the new NASA lunar project which is running out over the next few years."

Trump and Morrison shake hands at the White House. Photo: AAP

The 1969 moon landing inspired Adelaide boy Andy Thomas to become an astronaut, Morrison told Friday night's state dinner at the White House.

Dr Thomas was at the dinner, and said it was fabulous Adelaide would be involved in the new moonshot.

"It is a paradigm shift for Australia, it is one of the most popular things I have ever heard of," he told reporters.

He described the 2024 moon mission as ambitious.

"From an engineering point of view it might get there, but it is the political view that is the big challenge."

NASA's Apollo 11 mission launches from Cape Canaveral (then known as Cape Kennedy), Florida, July 16, 1969. Photo: Getty

Asked if he thought Australian astronauts would again be involved, Trump joked: "I think Scott and I would rather take a pass."

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As well as heading to NASA, on Saturday Morrison will lay a wreath at the Arlington national cemetery, visit a program that helps veterans become entrepreneurs, and attend a garden party at the Australian embassy.

Marshall said he "couldn't be more excited" that the Australian and American space agencies signed the joint statement of intent.

Trump and first lady Melania welcome Morrison and his wife Jenny during a State Arrival Ceremony on the Truman Balcony of the White House. Photo: AAP

"We're the home of the headquarters Mission Control and Space Discovery Centre for the Australian Space Agency and I think it's going to get even more investment into our state," Marshall said.

"That will lead to more investment and, being based in SA that means that investment with come to SA, so it will lead to more jobs.

The premier believes the two space agencies will have a strong working relationship.