WASHINGTON – The United States wants to send astronauts to the moon again and eventually explore Mars, Vice President Mike Pence told the National Space Council on Thursday.
“We will return Americans to the moon ... and build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” Pence said during a meeting in Chantilly, Virginia.
“America seems to have lost our edge in space,” Pence said. “Rather than lead in space, too often we’ve chosen to drift and, as we learned 60 years ago, when we drift we fall behind.”
Pence chairs the council, which was disbanded in 1993 and revived by President Donald Trump, who wants to bolster US ambitions in space.
“America must lead in space once again,” Pence said at the gathering, which drew the top executives of leading US aerospace and defense companies.
In September, Trump nominated Rep. Jim Bridenstine to be the new head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The nomination of Bridenstine, who represents a House district in Oklahoma, will have to be approved by the Senate.
The 42-year-old Bridenstine, a pilot in the US Navy Reserve, introduced H.R.4945 The American Space Renaissance Act, a piece of legislation aimed at revitalizing NASA.
“The purpose of this bill is to permanently secure the United States of America as the preeminent spacefaring nation,” Bridenstine said in a statement posted on his website.
Bridenstine supports further exploration of the moon, where astronauts last ventured during the Apollo space program in the 1970s.
“Breakthrough space technologies have improved the human condition and transformed nearly every aspect of our lives. These benefits can be directly tied to the leadership of the United States of America in exploring and commercializing space,” Bridenstine said.