Vice President Mike Pence challenged NASA to send American astronauts back to the moon within five years while speaking before an audience at a meeting of the National Space Council on Tuesday.
Speaking in Huntsville, Alabama, Pence said the space agency needed to work toward that goal with a sense of urgency and exploration, adding that it should achieve that goal “by any means necessary,” The Associated Press reported.
The vice president also said that America was back in the “space race,” adding that the first woman and next man to step foot on the moon would be American astronauts. Pence did not elaborate on any specifics but did say that the target for the first missions would be the moon’s south pole, which many people believe contains ice.
Pence, who currently serves as chairman of the National Space Council, mentioned how NASA’s Space Launch System, a rocket being contracted by Boeing, had been “plagued by bureaucratic inertia, by what some call the paralysis of analysis,” according to the Chicago Tribune. NASA reported that the SLS, which replaces the retired Space Shuttle, will be the most powerful rocket the agency has ever built.
Pence said that the SLS program was supposed to be completed in 2017, but lamented the fact that the schedule continues to be pushed back. While NASA had aimed to get astronauts back on the moon by 2028, Pence said that was not good enough, according to U.S. News and World Report.
The vice president said the agency needed to become a leaner, more agile organization, adding if the agency is not capable of putting astronauts on the moon in five years, it was the organization that needed to change, not the mission, The Tribune reported. He explained that if commercial rockets were the only way to get astronauts back on the moon, then so be it.
“Urgency must be our watchword. Failure to achieve our goal to return an American astronaut to the moon in the next five years is not an option.”
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine reportedly said the agency would do its best to meet the deadline, adding that with the help Boeing and other contractors, NASA could work on meeting the goal, reported U.S. News and World Report.
It's moon time, Mike Pence says. https://t.co/8BBu0L9ZE0
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) March 26, 2019
The Trump administration has long been hoping to make advancements in space. In December of 2017, the president signed the Space Policy Directive-1, which charged NASA with the task of establishing an exploration program that included returning U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface as one of its five missions. Last year, Pence announced details of the Space Force, a proposed branch of the U.S. Armed Forces that would focus on protecting U.S. interests from space.