The United State Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday that the Trump administration will direct NASA to land humans on the Moon again, reversing former president Barack Obama’s vision of reorienting the space agency’s focus towards Mars.
Pence made the administration’s intentions known in a speech he gave during the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council — a newly resurrected executive group aimed at guiding the US space agenda as well as via Wall Street Journal op-ed.
“We will return NASA astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation, we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” he told a crowded conference held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Virginia.
He said that he believes the U.S.’s space program reached its peak in 1969, when American astronauts landed on the moon. With that achievement, the United States claimed “its rightful place as the undisputed leader in the exploration of the heavens,” he penned on his op-ed.
“The United States has not sent an American astronaut to low-Earth orbit in 45 years….In the absence of American leadership, other nations have seized the opportunity to stake their claim in the infinite frontier,” Pence said. “Rather than lead in space, too often we’ve chosen to drift.”
He spent major part of his speech mourning the fact that American astronauts have not launched into deep space in the last 45 years, and that NASA is currently relying on Russian vehicles to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Indicating that the United States had lost its edge in space, “those days are over,” he said.
Albeit the Vice-President’s announcement marks a drastic change for the space agency, it’s unknown how this destination shift will affect NASA’s long-term plans. Nonetheless this message does not come as a surprise as many within the space community had expected it to happen. However, it reverses ex-president Obama’s vision of reorienting the space agency’s focus towards Mars.