Vice President of America Mike Pence, following months of hinting, finally announced that the Trump government will ask NASA to reach the moon again in order to establish a more permanent presence on the lunar surface. This appears like the return of the vision of President George W. Bush, which was postponed by President Barrack Obama as he realigned the space agency towards Mars expeditions.
Mike Pence announced the Trump administration's intentions through an op-ed on Wall Street Journal. He also delivered a speech during the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council, a newly formed executive group, who would be guiding the US space agenda.
"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," said Mike Pence, reported AP.
Many experts within the space community have been expecting this announcement for a while now. As per The Verge, in July, Pence had suggested going back to the moon during a speech at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Also, several National Space Council members and Trump's NASA transition team members support lunar missions. Still, it would mark a significant shift of plans for the space agency as it's focusing on Mars missions since 2010, without any plan of sending humans back to the moon, stated the report.
NASA has been developing a new rocket and a spacecraft, the Space Launch System and Orion, for taking the astronauts to the Mars. According to the report, till now the space agency's plan is to use these vehicles to build a space station in the vicinity of the moon, where astronauts can train and then begin their journey to Mars. Now it seems possible that those vehicles will be used to go to Moon's surface only.
To note the point, versions of the aforementioned vehicles were originally envisaged as part of the Constellation program, which was an effort under Bush for taking astronauts to the moon. However, it was cancelled by Obama later, stated the report.
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A big focus of the entire council meeting was on how NASA functions in collaboration with private companies to accomplish its missions. It seems like NASA will take help from its partnerships with those commercial companies to get back to the moon.
"American companies are on the cutting edge of space technology, and they're developing new rockets, spaceships, and satellites that will take us further into space faster than ever before. By fostering much stronger partnerships between the federal government and the realm of industry, and bringing the full force of our national interests to bear, American leadership in space will be assured," said Pence.
Many space industry leaders were present at the meeting including those from SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, reported The Verge. The representatives discussed as to how they can help NASA to achieve its ambitious goals.
Moreover, Mike Pence emphasized that the U.S. will become the leader in space again under the Trump administration. "America seems to have lost our edge in space and those days are over," said the Vice President.