Vice President Mike Pence touted the newly revived National Space Council during a July 6 visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, saying the group will help reenergize  U.S. space efforts.

For “nearly 25 years, our government’s commitment seems to have not matched the spirit of the American people,” Pence asserted in a speech. “But I’m here to tell you that as we still enter this new century, we will beat back any disadvantage that our lack of attention has placed, and America will once again lead in space for the benefit and the security of all our people and all of the world.

Artist's illustration of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). Photo: NASA.
Artist’s illustration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). Photo: NASA.

Pence said the council, which he will chair, will push to make space travel “safer, cheaper and more accessible than ever before.” It will also aim to “reorient America’s space program toward human space exploration and discovery” by sending astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond. 

“From this bridge to space, our nation will return to the moon and we will put American boots on the face of Mars,” Pence told workers at the Vehicle Assembly Building, which used to prepare the Space Shuttle for launch and which will assemble NASA’s new Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket.

The council will also promote national security in space. Pence said his recent trip to Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, whose 50th Space Wing operates and supports 175 Defense Department satellites, underscored space’s important role in defense.

“I can assure you, under President Donald Trump, American security will be as dominant in the heavens as we are here on Earth,” he said.

The council, which had been dormant since 1993, officially came back to life with an executive order that Trump signed June 30. The council is charged with advising the president on national space policy and strategy and coordinating space policy among various government agencies.

Pence pledged to hold the council’s first meeting “before the summer is out.”

Other council members will include the secretaries of commerce, defense, homeland security, state and transportation; NASA’s administrator; the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman; the director of national intelligence; the heads of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and the president’s national security and homeland security advisers.

The council will be advised by a group of industry and academic representatives who will be named “in the coming weeks,” Pence said.

Pence praised industry’s growing role in space, noting that a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Intelsat [I] 35e commercial communications satellite from Kennedy July 5.

“I’m really sorry that I missed the successful commercial launch that took place last night,” he said. “I was praying for rain at the Kennedy Space Center so we might see that rocket go up today. But the truth is we’re going to continue to foster stronger partnerships between government agencies and innovative industries across this country because both have so much to offer one another.”    

Attendees at Pence’s speech included Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.); Reps. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Bill Posey (R-Fla.); Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot; and astronaut Buzz Aldrin.