Enlarge / Vice President Mike Pence speaks at Kennedy Space Center earlier this year. (credit: NASA)
For close observers of space policy, a likely human return to the Moon has been one of the worst-kept secrets of the new Trump administration.
First, new space companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Bigelow Aerospace started to introduce plans that involved lunar exploration.
Then, Vice President Mike Pence picked Scott Pace to serve as executive director of the National Space Council—a Moon-first guy.
Finally, the Trump administration nominated Jim Bridenstine, an Oklahoma representative who sees the Moon as the critical next step in human exploration, to serve as NASA administrator.
Now, the Trump administration has finally made its lunar ambitions official.
In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal on the eve of the first National Space Council meeting, Pence has set returning to the lunar surface at the forefront of human exploration.
On the Moon
“We will refocus America’s space program toward human exploration and discovery,” Pence wrote. “That means launching American astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since 1972.
It means establishing a renewed American presence on the Moon, a vital strategic goal.
And from the foundation of the Moon, America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars.”
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