Pence: Americans will walk on Mars


Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.

Vice President Mike Pence vowed that the United States will be at the forefront of space exploration in a speech before NASA employees at the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.

“Today, I come to assure you, the men and women of NASA . that under President Donald Trump, America will lead in space once again,” Pence said.

His trip came just days after Trump named him to lead the relaunched National Space Council.

The U.S. space program, he said, “will return to the moon, and we will put American boots on the face of Mars.”

Pence’s visit, which included a tour of the facility, comes as the Trump administration is beginning to chart its course on space exploration.

Trump late last month signed an executive order reviving the National Space Council and naming Pence to lead it. Trump said his administration is prepared to “lead again like we never led before,” while calling space the “next great American frontier.”

Pence on Thursday said the council will bring together government, private sector and academic experts to push the U.S. space program forward.

“We will bring the best of America together once again to lead with Americans in space,” he said.

Pence called Kennedy Space Center “the heart and soul of our American space program, where science fiction has become science fact for generations.”

Pence’s speech, which stressed manned expeditions into space as a priority, comes amid uncertainty about NASA’s next manned mission and its priorities under Trump.

The president has not yet named an administrator for the agency, nor has he appointed a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Both posts are expected to serve on the space council.

Trump’s budgeting for NASA has marked a shift from President Barack Obama. He has called for cuts for 2018 that include funding for the agency’s mission to send astronauts to an asteroid and several research programs studying climate change.

Trump did, however, preserve funding to develop the agency’s Space Launch System and Orion capsule, the rocket and vehicle intended to carry NASA astronauts into space in the future, including potentially for missions to Mars.

Pence’s speech was attended by former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon; Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio; state Attorney General Pam Bondi; and Adam Putnam, the agriculture commissioner and 2018 candidate for governor.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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