Pence Promises Return to the Moon & Boots on Mars

Mike Pence

Vice President and newly minted Chairman of the revived National Space Council Mike Pence visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday where he gave a speech promising a return to the moon and boots on Mars.

When? How? What will it cost? And how are we going to pay for it?

Pence didn’t get into that level of granularity. In fact, he didn’t get into very many details at all during his address to KSC employees.

Pence’s speech consisted of a lot of platitudes delivered with attitude and lots of latitude as to what it all meant in practice.

If you watched it and were baffled, welcome to the club. That seems to be the consensus of the media coverage I’ve seen so far among reporters who cover space.

A couple of themes came through in Pence’s address. One is the White House is determined to restore U.S. leadership in space, the world and elsewhere. Where exactly the country is lagging, and what specific changes were needed to remedy the situation, were not made clear.

The vice president did mention focusing the agency on human exploration, which is code for slashing the agency’s climate change research. This is an area in which the United States is actually leading the world. However, Pence doubts that global warming is a threat. President Donald Trump has called it a hoax created by the Chinese.

Pence effusively praised Trump as a great leader with a tremendous vision and commitment to making America no. 1 in space again. The president was merely helping to carry out his boss’s vision.

Anyone who watched Trump speak during a ceremony last Friday at which he signed an executive order reviving the National Space Council would be surprised by Pence’s claim. Trump’s short address was a confusing word salad of vague promises and bold assertions that seemed to have been left out baking in the hot Washington sun for too long.

Trump’s comments last week made Pence’s speech today look highly detailed. It was difficult to watch the president talk about space with any sense that he’s thought about it for more than five minutes.

It didn’t help when the signing ceremony ended with a bizarre exchange between the president and Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

“Infinity and beyond,” Aldrin said, invoking the phrase used by Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story.”

“This is infinity here,” the president replied. “It could be infinity.  We don’t really don’t know.  But it could be.  It has to be something — but it could be infinity, right?”

Ahhh….yeah. Right. Whatever you say, sir.

So, Trump’s comprehension of space policy doesn’t seem to be too solid. But, being a good second in command, Pence gave his boss all the credit for the administration’s bold revival of the space program — whatever it will be.

Space in this administration appears to be a Pence operation. He spoke at some length about how the National Space Council that he is heading will bring together the government’s disparate space activities and coordinate them and other stuff.

Pence seemed really enthused by the council as he described. But, I imagined most of the KSC employees in the audience couldn’t care less about some bureaucratic reorganization of space policy in faraway Washington. Their questions probably ran along more practical lines:

  • What exactly are you going to do?
  • Are we landing people on the moon or just orbiting it?
  • Are you going to cancel SLS? Orion?
  • Turn everything over to Musk? Or Bezos?
  • Am I going to have a job in six months? A year from now?

None of those details was forthcoming. And there was no Q&A session. No naming of staff for the space council. Pence also gave no hint as to when the Trump Administration would get around to nominating a new NASA administrator to replace the one who left in January.

The vice president did promise to convene the National Space Council later this summer. So, that is something.

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  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    Pence may want NASA to invent the new make America great again space missions. Then Trump picks one and takes credit.

  • Stu

    The problem is that it is all bollocks. You can tell that by the fact that it is a politician saying it. Every term will come around, the incumbent will make a lot of promises, a load of money will get blown on nothing useful. Rinse and repeat forever.

  • mike_shupp

    NASA gets 20 billion bucks per year, ballpark. Most of us know that number. That’s more than Russia spends on its space program, more than China, more than a collection of European nations. So it’s not spending levels alone that irritate space supporters in this country, it’s the incredibly slow pace at which progress is made. We should have a couple of Antarctic-style moonbases by now, we should be laying out foundations for a Mars colony, we should have a hundred different robot prospectors cataloging the Asteroid Belt. etc. Instead we have one small “international space station” which is probably headed for destruction in 2024, and nobody, whether the USA or Europe or Russia or Canada or Japan has any firm notion of what the followup might be.

    This isn’t success, in other words, but to describe the situation as the US being “behind” other nations and suggesting that through some incredible act of will the US will magically “lead the world again” shows complete lack of understanding. I suspect the average American high school dropout is more sophisticated about space matters than our Vice President, or at least could be brought up to a reasonable understanding of the issues in less time than has been available to Pence.

    This doesn’t bode well for the future.

  • JamesG

    If a Democrat had said the exact same thing you would be gushing with enthusiasm and cheering them on instead of sharpening your cynicism knife Doug.

  • JamesG

    That is how this game is played.

  • Douglas Messier

    Care to comment on what the vice president said or didn’t say? Or do you want to just make this an attack on me?

    Seems easier for you to attack me for some imaginary reaction I would have to some imaginary speech given by some imaginary politician that exists somewhere in the recesses of your brain than it is to actually defend Pence’s speech here.

  • savuporo

    $20B is a ton of money, no matter how you slice it and divvy it up. It’s not about the size though, it’s how you use it

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I’ll go against the grain and defend Mr T a bit. I think this …

    “This is infinity here,” the president replied. “It could be infinity.
    We don’t really don’t know. But it could be. It has to be something —
    but it could be infinity, right?”

    I like this, you can see Trump has some second guessing going on. He knows enough history it seems to know that this really could go nowhere. Surely he sees at this point that the government can and does act against him, and it’s good to see he’s aware he may not be able to overcome it.

    That thought process is what a 20 something would have going through their head for the first time after being given a task to complete that someone before them had failed. That a 70 something with a lifetime of ‘experience’ behind him does not take that kind of thought process as second nature and assume everyone else is thinking it points to my theory that he’s very much a light weight. But at least at this moment he’s a lightweight with some trepidation, so it could be worse. Trump is taken to the mat by the press for ‘bantering’ in moments like this. I wish they would not, because I think a lot of people don’t, and to hear the president do it might give them license to do so. But maybe I’m asking for too much.

  • mlc449

    Empty words from an already failed presidency.

  • mlc449

    Yawn. Change the record already Trumpbot.

  • mlc449

    I like this, you can see Trump has some second guessing going on.

    Nah, just the dementia finally kicking in. Like how he tried to walk off the tarmac after getting off Air Force One instead of getting into the waiting limo.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF5TGQgQJeA

    Sad!

  • therealdmt

    We have established a permanent base in Alabama

  • JamesG

    Pence didn’t actually say anything of substance. Just another political speech where a politician told a constituent group what they wanted to hear. You however, took the opportunity to take several swipes at the president and were uniformly negative. Thats not imaginary, just pointing out your bias. Either maintain your journalistic bearing or own that editorial shit, but don’t mock innocence. Unless you are really unaware of your TDS?

  • Arthur Hamilton

    The government explores. Private companies exploit’ what the government explores. Apollo turned out to be a dead program ticking. So, unless private companies can exploit the moon, Mars and the asteroids, there won’t be any sustainable living on either.

  • Douglas Messier

    Agreed!

  • Douglas Messier

    > Just another political speech where a politician told a constituent group what they wanted to hear.

    What constituent group wanted to hear anything that vague and lacking in substance? The NASA employees in the room? You think they wanted to hear that? Doubt that. OTOH, it’s a perfect speech for the Trumpbots out there.

    > You however, took the opportunity to take several swipes at the president

    For not knowing what the hell he’s doing. That’s an accurate assessment. But, clearly one you **don’t** want to hear.

    Time to change the record, Trumpbot. Stop attacking the messenger.

  • JamesG

    Is “mlc449” your sock puppet or are you his?
    Or was keywords: “Trumpbot” and “change the record” on the Vast Leftwing Conspiracy’s SM talkingpoints list this morning? How many brownie points do you guys get for each use?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Not when so much of it goes to feed all the legacy NASA Centers and ISS. Also subtract the $2 billion or so committed to Earth Sciences and another $3 billion or so for Space Sciences and actual amount of discretionary NASA spending in more like $3-4 billion, the bulk of which is going to SLS. Add in that it is more expensive for NASA to do things because of the need to follow government procurement practices and there is not as much as it seems.

  • Douglas Messier

    I have no better idea who mic449 is than I know who you are. Certainly didn’t solicit that comment. I didn’t write it myself. I did like the response and the language used in it.

    You do make a lot of accusations based on no evidence. You see a conspiracy when I like someone else’s comments. You attack me for some imaginary reaction you think I would have to some
    imaginary speech given by some imaginary politician that all exist somewhere in the recesses of your brain.

  • ThomasLMatula

    LOL given the “accomplishments” of the Obama Administration in space.

    The Obama Administration oversaw the last Shuttle flight while killing the follow Constellation Program

    The Obama Administration put the Moon off limits to HSF (been there, done that…)

    The Obama Administration dragged out Commercial Crew by years by under funding it.

    The Obama Administration bought into the SLS, a rocket so expensive to launch it will only fly a few times each decade.

    The Obama Administration dragged out the money pit progrm that is the ISS for years.

    The Obama Administration made the immediate goal of HSF to reach an Asteroid. When that proved too difficult decided to bring the Asteroid to the Astronauts. When that proved too difficult it was downsized to bring a boulder from an Asteroid. If the Trump Administration hadn’t put ARM out of its misery it would have probably been down to bringing a bag of pebbles to the Astronauts.

    If the Trump Administration does nothing more that finish Commercial Crew so Americans are able to reach ISS on an American rocket instead of a Russian one it will be more successful in space than the Obama Administration was.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Basically what he said was that instead of doing another President Commission as President Obama did, then ignoring the results, the NSC will review and then implement a coordinated space policy part of which will involve NASA.

    I for one would rather see this Administration take the time to get it right and I look forward to seeing what the NSC produces.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I imagine one thing on their to do list is restructuring the FAA AST to provide regulatory framework to do just that, moving it beyond its current mission to just license launches and landings.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Obama’s action on Constellation forced Shelby and others to actually start funding the the remnants of the Constellation program on an annual basis. The death of Ares I turned out to be a blessing for NASA Hopefully Trump & Pence can build on what the Obama administration left instead of dismantling it.

  • roflplatypus

    At least we get a quality meme from it

  • ThomasLMatula

    First we have to pay the Russians to fly to the ISS. Now NASA will be paying its rent to South Koreans for its HQ. And folks still claim we are leading in space 🙂

    https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2017/07/06/foreign-investors-pay-nearly-360-million-for-nasa.html

    “A South Korean asset manager has acquired NASA’s D.C. headquarters building for nearly $360 million, or about $593 per square foot, another strong sign that foreign investors continue to seek out D.C.’s commercial real estate.”

  • mlc449

    Bush II ordered the wind-down of the Shuttle.

    Obama ordered America to MARS.

    Congress refused to adequately fund Commercial Crew.

    Congress demanded SLS, to which Obama was required to sign off on.

    ISS is the only venture in space so far. What do you suggest, deorbit the station after hundreds of billions have been spent on it?!

    This pro-Trump shilling is beyond moronic…..much like Trump, Pence and the rest of the bozos now unfortunately in charge.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3baf85ccad179b38ce0331e6fd40b06acde6e65c8d82abf84fed8cde80ecd220.jpg

    Literally says Critical Space Flight Hardware DO NOT TOUCH!

  • windbourne

    Ok.
    Please back your assertions.

    Show that O was underfunding commercial crew.
    Likewise, show us where O created and pushed the funding for SLS.

    You seem to imply that O killed the shuttle. Is that what u want to claim?

  • ThomasLMatula

    It ended on his watch and he did kill the follow-on program. So no, he didn’t issue the execution order, but he did have the option of staying the execution IF he cared about it.

    In terms of the SLS, he assumed ownership of SLS in this speech.

    https://www.nasa.gov/about/obama_ksc_pod.html

    “Next, we will invest more than $3 billion to conduct research on an advanced “heavy lift rocket” — a vehicle to efficiently send into orbit
    the crew capsules, propulsion systems, and large quantities of supplies needed to reach deep space. In developing this new vehicle, we will
    not only look at revising or modifying older models; we want to look at
    new designs, new materials, new technologies that will transform not
    just where we can go but what we can do when we get there. And we will
    finalize a rocket design no later than 2015 and then begin to build it.”

    Remember, as Harry Truman stated – “The buck stops here.”

  • JamesG

    There is no “evidence” all you are doing is acting out your irrational TDS.

    You’re just parroting the party line. If I wanted to read whining about Trump I’d go straight to huffingtonpost.com.

  • ThomasLMatula

    No, that is not what he actually said.

    https://www.nasa.gov/about/obama_ksc_pod.html

    ” So we’ll start — we’ll start by sending astronauts to an asteroid for
    the first time in history. By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it.”

    Doesn’t sound like an order to Mars to me, merely an option for a future Administration AFTER sending astronauts to an Asteroid.

    As for the ISS, the great international commune, as long as it keeps burning up $3-4 billion a year there will never any money to go anywhere.

    BTW the only shrilling I hear is for the so called Resistance, the endless and mindless attacks from the poor losers of the last election.

    President Obama took over a year to finally develop his space goals, such as they were, for NASA yet you expected one yesterday from this Administration. Typical double standard.

  • Vladislaw

    Wow .. I normally agree with you but this is BS.

    “The Obama Administration oversaw the last Shuttle flight while killing the follow-on Constellation Program”

    The last shuttle flight that republicans did not want to fund.

    How many republicans voted AGAINST funding the Constellation Program? How many senators did Shelby try to bribe to vote for that boondoggle?

    “The Obama Administration dragged out Commercial Crew by years by under funding it.”

    This is simply comical, are you trying to be a stand up comedian now? EVERY request and proposal for commercial crew was chopped by republicans here is a handy graphic .. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a1ea4ce4b31a5e8f7283b16335d7841895f2aabc9967d6edf8c9e41b566b83af.png

  • Vladislaw
  • Douglas Messier

    Unable to defend Trump, you turn your bile on the messenger. If it helps you from doing worse things with your rage, perhaps this serves a purpose.

  • JamesG

    I had no intention of defending Trump. I am not at all a fan of Trump . I wasn’t attacking you either. I was commenting on your objectivity.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Again, as the famous Harry Truman quote goes, “The Buck Stops Here.”

    President Obama basically abandoned space after his Kennedy like photo op. The only thing he really did after his great speech was to finally launch Goresat. But he never spent any major effort defending his budgets on space.

    Its easy to pretend you are supporting something with a big budget request when you know its going to be cut down if you don’t defend it. Try all the excuses you like, but it was Obama’s watch.

  • mlc449

    Delusional crap from the Alt-Nazi’s. Go back to playing with your Pepe plushie and leave the discussion here to us sensible adults.

  • Vladislaw

    So all President Obama had to do was propose it and ole’ Mitch “500 filibusters” McConnell would have just jumped on board.. LOL

  • mlc449

    Good post. You have to understand that we’re in the post-fact world now where lies and BS are the norm thanks to a chronically dishonest Trump regime. You can post facts and truth all you want but it won’t make a damn bit of a difference with these Alt-drones who live in their own fantasy world.

    A world where Trump didn’t collude with the Kremlin to win the election.
    A world where Trump doesn’t owe half a billion dollars to Russian mobsters.
    A world where Trump doesn’t grab women’s genitalia and is respectful of the opposite sex.
    A world where he’s pro-environment and the Paris Accord is a Commie/Chinese plot.
    A world where Hillary committed high-treason by not following common cyber-security practices.

    These are the nuts the rest of us are dealing with. Far right, delusional, selfish narcissistic assholes. Hillary was being respectful when she described Trump supporters as “deplorables”.

  • mlc449

    I am not at all a fan of Trump .

    And yet you sure as hell go out of your way to defend the maniac.

    Look, politics and space are inextricably linked. It would be impossible to have a discussion about space without including White House space policies. Just as it would be impossible to have a discussion on ESA without linking to EU space policy. Same with Roscosmos/Kremlin. Government’s are still the main actors re: space exploration.

    The key difference between this site and other space websites however is that there’s added commentary, someone which I quite like. I don’t mind the others, such as SpaceNews, but a lot of the time it feels like I’m reading ULA/SpaceX/Arianespace press releases. Opinion is a good thing, even the bits here I don’t necessarily agree with, like the more critical pieces on SpaceX by Doug (which hopefully should prove to you I’m no-one’s sock).

    I’m wondering did you write to Fox News between 2009-2017 and demand they stop the biased (and often baseless) attacks on Obama since you’re such a staunch defender of neutrality and objectivity?

  • ThomasLMatula

    By ignoring space after his speech, and alienating the Democratic Congress before, President Obama ensured that Congress would not support him, even while it was still Democratic, let alone Republican, but he didn’t care because he had his photo-op.

    BTW here is an analysis of his space legacy from Nature, written BEFORE the election, with some out takes.

    http://www.nature.com/news/obama-s-science-legacy-a-space-race-stalls-1.20466

    As Barack Obama prepares to leave office, Nature examines the scientific highs and lows of his presidency.

    “That is almost exactly the situation NASA was in eight years ago, bar
    one detail: Obama ditched the Moon as a first stop for astronauts on
    their way to Mars.”

    “That decision, in February 2010, stunned NASA, Congress and space-policy experts. Obama cancelled the Constellation programme, which his
    predecessor George W. Bush created to send US astronauts back to the Moon in preparation for an eventual Mars trip. Two months later Obama announced a different course: astronauts would visit a yet-to-be-chosen asteroid before heading off to the red planet. The White House did not consult Congress on the switch, angering powerful members who represent space-industry employees in states such as Florida, Texas and California. “The hostility created by the way the Obama administration rolled that out still lingers in Congress,” says Smith.”

    The decision also alienated traditional US space partners such as Europe and Japan, says Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington DC. “Little to no weight was given to the international implications of the decision to abandon efforts to lead an international return of humans to the lunar surface,” he says.”

    Remember in early 2010 Congress was solidly Democratic. Bringing this back to the thread topic, hopefully the NSC will do a better job by not rushing ahead and by including more of the key players in the decision AND implementation process.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I truly feel sorry for you that you have become so cynical and hateful after the election. I do hope with time you will be able to get over it and developed a more balanced world view. The world, especially the world of space policy, is not the black and white world as you see it. Unfortunately, because of your deep emotions, it doesn’t appear to be possible to rationally discuss space policy with you.

  • mlc449

    The irony coming from a Trump supporter.

  • passinglurker

    Looks to me like obama followed his commission’s recommendations, but maybe I missed something care to elaborate on where he deviated?

  • dfw63

    5 day old post but I just noticed it.
    You whine about Trump colluding with Russia to win the election and yet Hillary selling 20% of the US uranium supply to Russia as SecState goes unmentioned? Then Russian groups donate 140 MILLION dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Coincidence?

    Think about this, the deep state is 100% dedicated to destroying Trump.
    The US media is 100% dedicated to destroying Trump.
    The democrats are 100% dedicated to destroying him too.
    MOST republicans are 100% dedicated to destroying him.
    If those groups are your allies, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

  • mlc449

    You whine about Trump colluding with Russia to win the election and yet Hillary selling 20% of the US uranium supply to Russia as SecState goes unmentioned?

    Oh get bent with that old discredited altie lie.