Vice President Mike Pence delivers opening remarks during the National Space Council's first meeting, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. The National Space Council, chaired by Pence, heard testimony from representatives from civil space, commercial space, and national security space industry representatives. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)
Theresa Seiger, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to bringing America to the forefront of space travel and exploration, vowing to put another American on the moon and to send people to Mars and beyond.
“We will return American 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,” Pence said while addressing the National Space Council in its first gathering in more than two decades.
“The moon will be a stepping stone, a training ground, a venue to strengthen our commercial and international partnerships as we refocus America’s space program toward human space exploration.”
Pence, several cabinet secretaries and White House advisers gathered in the shadow of the shuttle at the Smithsonian Institution's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to chart a new path in space -- government, commercial and military -- for the country. It was the first meeting of the National Space Council, revived after it was disbanded in 1993.
The NSC has been tasked with reviewing American policies, creating long-term goals for the space program and coordinating national space activities. The strategy shared by Pence on Thursday and in an op-ed he penned for The Wall Street Journal appeared to focus heavily on human space flight, economic development and national security, Space.com reported.
The vice president said Thursday that by strengthening America’s position on the final frontier, officials will also be strengthening the nation’s position back on Earth.
“Today, more than ever before, our nation’s prosperity, security and identity depend on American leadership in space,” Pence said.
No humans have been on the moon since Apollo 17 in December 1972. Only 12 men have set foot on the moon, all have been Americans.
Past presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush proposed returns to the moon and then going on to Mars. Barack Obama rerouted the moon plan to an asteroid as a first-stop with Mars as the goal. All plans had lack of money keep them from coming true, said space expert Brian Weeden of the Secure World Foundation. He wasn't part of the council meeting.