Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence speaks at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday. (credit: NASA)
If President Donald Trump has had one consistent message about space exploration both during his campaign and presidency, it’s that America is doing badly in space.
About a year ago during a campaign stop in Daytona Beach, Florida, Trump said, “Look what’s happened with our whole history of space and leadership. Look what’s going on folks. We’re like a third world nation.”
As Vice President Mike Pence has assumed duties over space policy, he has made a respectable effort to tour NASA and Air Force facilities around the country.
But during these visits, he’s also reiterated this Debbie Downer message. When he delivered a speech Thursday at Kennedy Space Center, Pence said that under the Trump administration, America will lead in space “once again” no less than eight times.
The subtext here is that America has fallen far behind in space—and that it needs strong leadership to get back on its feet. While there are definitely significant problems with US space policy—starting with the lack a clear direction for human spaceflight and the funding to support those goals—no other nation can come close to the United States. Moreover, because of the long lead times baked into aerospace development, almost every “accomplishment” that demonstrates American leadership in space during the next 3.5 years will have started long before President Trump took office.
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