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Pence vows US will return to moon, go to Mars

Vice President Mike Pence delivered opening remarks during the National Space Council's first meeting on Thursday.

JOEL KOWSKY/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence delivered opening remarks during the National Space Council's first meeting on Thursday.

With soaring rhetoric, Vice President Pence said Thursday that the United States will “return American astronauts to the moon” and lay a foundation for voyages “to Mars and beyond.”

Pence delivered his remarks at the first meeting of the reconstituted National Space Council, the body’s first such gathering in nearly 25 years.

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“We will renew the American spirit itself and rekindle our belief that America can accomplish anything,” Pence, the chairman of the council, said during his speech at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

Pence said re-committing to space exploration is vital for the nation’s economy and security, and he praised President Trump for spearheading what he billed as a renewed effort to ensure American dominance on the final frontier.

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The president, Pence said, has “declared to all the world that America will lead in space once again.” Pence lamented that the US hasn’t sent an astronaut beyond “low earth orbit” in 45 years, as well as the fact that Americans are relying on Russia to “ferry our astronauts to the International Space Station.”

“We have resolved, with the leadership of President Donald Trump, to never again let America fall behind in the race for space,” Pence said, adding that government will partner with the private sector to make advances in space technology.

“America must be as dominant in space as we are here on earth,” Pence said.

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He made the comments one day after vowing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that “America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars.”

And in a statement Wednesday, NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot said he had high hopes for Thursday’s meeting of the re-booted council.

“We expect to come out of this meeting with a reinvigorated focus for America’s space exploration goals that engages all the innovation of NASA and our partners, moves us toward national priorities, and excites people around the world,” Lightfoot said.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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