The U.S. is Going Back to the Moon

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Vice President Mike Pence wrote down the words he would put in a speech before the National Space Council (I know, I didn’t know it existed either) today: that the U.S. will put astronauts back on the moon.

[American] pre-eminence in outer space is now under threat—and once again, America must act. President Trump has revived the National Space Council to assist him in developing and implementing long-range strategic goals for our nation’s space policy. On Thursday the council will hold its first meeting in nearly 25 years, and as its chairman, I will deliver a simple message: America will lead in space again.

More than ever, American prosperity and security depend on U.S. leadership in space. Yet national space policy often has lacked a coherent, cohesive vision. The results not only are disappointing; they endanger the well-being of the American people.

Pence outlined his vision today at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia before an audience that included representatives from private space exploration companies SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

According to the Verge, Pence’s speech indicated a desire by the Trump administration to “return to the vision of President George W. Bush, which was deferred when President Obama reoriented the space agency toward a journey to Mars.”

That may be true, and Pence is clear in his op-ed that he would like to see American leadership play more of a role in deep space exploration. But I think the more fundamental desire likely has to do with the second of three objectives Pence outlined in his op-ed:

We will renew America’s commitment to creating the space technology needed to protect national security. Our adversaries are aggressively developing jamming and hacking capabilities that could cripple critical military surveillance, navigation systems and communication networks. In the face of this threat, America must be as dominant in the heavens as it is on Earth.

Pence, according to the Verge, indicated that private space companies will be tasked with holding the fort in the near-Earth atmosphere (or “lower Earth orbit”) and that NASA would concentrate on deep-space missions.

“Above all, the National Space Council will enable our nation to bring American values to this infinite frontier. It will renew the American spirit itself, as we lift our heads and reach our hands toward the heavens, in pursuit of peace and hope for all mankind,” Pence wrote.