Published: Wed, March 27, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Pence calls for landing US astronauts on moon in 5 years

Pence calls for landing US astronauts on moon in 5 years

The head of NASA says "challenge accepted" after the Trump administration asked the organisation to bring forward its next crewed moon landing by four years.


Speaking prior to a meeting of the National Space Council Tuesday in Huntsville, Pence said the goal is to send astronauts to the southern pole of the moon, where there is great scientific and economic value.

Pence was also explicit that meeting the new five-year goal should be accomplished "by any means necessary", including switching to commercial rockets.

"The first woman and the next man on the moon will both be American astronauts, launched by American rockets from American soil". Pence says the first woman on the moon and the next man there will be US astronauts launched by USA rockets from US soil.

On Wednesday US Vice President Mike Pence - on behalf of President Trump - directed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to accelerate the agency's lunar exploration plans.

Pence's speech echoed overtones of the Cold War tensions that drove NASA to achieve the original Apollo 11 moon landing on schedule 50 years ago this July. "That next giant leap is to return American astronauts to the moon [by 2024]. and to establish a permanent presence on the moon and prepare to put American astronauts on Mars".

Pence threatened to use commercial launch systems or to look to other partners if NASA is not ready in time.

The vice president, who has taken the lead on space issues, also said US-made rockets would again be used within a year for space missions.

Previously Mr Bridenstine has claimed NASA was two years away from launching its next big rocket and capsule vehicle. But NASA officials later clarified that a moon landing within five years was, indeed, the stated objective. Boeing the primary contractor for the SLS rocket engines.

In November, NASA named nine US companies, including Lockheed Martin Corp, that would compete for funding under the space agency's renewed private-public partnership for developing technology to explore the lunar surface.

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