Mike Pence: 'America Will Lead in Space Again'

Violet Powell
October 6, 2017

In the latest flip-flop of national space priorities, Vice President Mike Pence says Barack Obama's focus on Mars will take a back seat to the moon.

Standing in front of the imposing - and retired - space shuttle Discovery behind him, Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday hailed a new era in America's dedication to the space program, promising a return to the moon and worlds beyond.

"The moon will be a stepping stone, a training ground, a venue to strengthen our commercial and global partnerships as we refocus America's space program toward human space exploration", Pence added. To correct this, he said, "President Trump has charged this National Space Council with reviewing America's current policy and our long range goals and coordinating all national space activities from security to commerce to exploration". "And from the foundation of the Moon, America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars". In recent years NASA has talked about sending humans to a space station near the Moon but not landing astronauts there.

In a panel on commercial spaceflight, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell described her companies development of reusable rockets and spacecraft, including the Big Falcon Rocket and Big Falcon Spaceship, which the company plans to use to transport people to the moon and Mars. The representatives of these companies discussed how their organizations could best serve NASA in achieving its goals, either by providing rockets and services or by building new space vehicles. He warned of Russian and Chinese efforts to develop anti-satellite technology created to threaten military effectiveness and chastised the practice of relying on Russian help to get Americans to the International Space Station.

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Pence explained that America "seems to have lost our edge in space".

However, it's unclear what truly lies ahead for NASA, as most of today's National Space Council meeting was big on talk, while light on concrete strategies. "And we will once again astonish the world as we boldly go to meet our future in the skies and in the stars".

'Rather than lead in space, too often, we have chosen to drift.

He said the Space Council's mandate is to find a way to maintain 'a constant commercial, human presence in low-Earth orbit'. Perhaps we'll see some changes to the budget later this year, or perhaps with the president's budget request early next year.

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