US Vice President Mike Pence has stated that the Trump administration will direct NASA to land humans on the Moon again. With this statement, he has reversed ex-President Obama’s vision of reorienting the space agency’s focus towards Mars.
Pence not only made the Trump administration’s intentions clear in a Wall Street Journal op-ed but also in a speech which he gave during the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council. It is a newly resurrected executive group aimed at guiding the US space agenda.
Speaking at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Virginia, the vice-president said, “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.”
With this announcement, Pence has revived the plans of former US president George W Bush. It is to be noted that Obama administration had deferred the missions to Moon and reoriented the space agency toward a journey to Mars.
The US would lead in space again under the Trump administration, Pence stressed.
The American astronauts haven’t launched a mission to Moon in the last four decades. NASA is currently relying on Russian vehicles to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
“America seems to have lost our edge in space. And those days are over,” The Verge quoted Pence as saying.
Since 2010, the American space agency has focused of sending humans to Mars only. It hasn’t made any plans for landing people on the Moon since then.
However, it was not mentioned neither in the vice-president’s speech nor in the newspaper article about the timeline or the funding of the future Moon missions.
Earlier, Obama had rejected the Moon as a return destination.
“We’ve been there,” he had said and directed NASA to be more specific towards the Red Planet Mars. His ambition was to “send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth” by the mid-2030s.
He approved the development of a big new rocket, the Space Launch System, and a deep space capsule called Orion. All of this hardware is still some years away from carrying people.
(With PTI inputs)