Vice-President Mike Pence announced Thursday plans for the U.S. to return to the moon and put “American boots on the face of Mars.”
His remarks came days after President Trump appointed him the head of the revived National Space Council. Last seated in 1993, the council is charged with guiding U.S. space policy, and Pence laid out ambitious goals for NASA in a speech at the Kennedy Space Center, which he called “the heart and soul of our space program, where science fiction has become science fact for generations.”
America will “get back to winning” in space, Pence said, and “usher in a new era of space leadership.” He said space exploration will help the U.S. by strengthening the economy, unlocking new technology, inspiring children to love science, and helping keep America safe.
“Today, I come to assure you, the men and women of NASA, and all those at this gateway to the stars, where the aspirations of the American people have taken flight, that under President Donald Trump, America will lead in space once again,” he said.
Pence didn’t go into detail about how the U.S. will achieve those goals or provide any timetables. Despite the grandiose language — America will take “our rightful place as the vanguard of humanity’s historic rendezvous with the future,” Pence said — the particulars of the Trump administration’s space plan remain murky. He also did little to reconcile the apparent importance of NASA with proposed budget cuts.
But maybe Pence was just trying to give a rousing speech heavy on symbolism, leaving the policy to the NASA administrator. There’s one problem with that theory though: Six months into the Trump presidency, NASA still doesn’t have an administrator.