Courtesy of NASA/JPL/USGS

We’re Heading Back to the Moon and Then On to Mars

By Michael R. Pence, Vice President of the United States

Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, when “one small step for man” became “one giant leap for mankind.”

In that moment, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins helped our nation win the “space race,” answering the call made by President John F. Kennedy just eight years before to “put a man on the moon” before the decade was out.

But when President Kennedy issued that challenge, our nation was not yet prepared to meet it. We didn’t have the rockets, launch pads, spacesuits, or so many other vital technologies to get there safely – or, just as importantly, to return home.

In fact, history records that President Richard Nixon prepared a speech in the event of a tragedy, explaining to the nation that the mission had failed.

But thanks to the courage, grit and determination of the three space pioneers of Apollo 11 – and the hard work of the men and women behind their mission at NASA – that speech was never delivered.

Instead, the United States did the impossible by placing the first man on the surface of the moon. The snowy images of Armstrong and Aldrin walking across the lunar surface left an indelible mark on the imaginations of the 600 million people across the Earth who waited with fear and wonder.

Apollo 11 landing site.
Credit: NASA

The crew of Apollo 11 did more than plant a flag and leave a footprint – they brought our world together.

Unity is the true legacy of Apollo 11 – and we must capture that same unity in our own day by renewing our commitment to American leadership in space.

The United States will lead the creation of a base at the moon’s South Pole where astronauts could reside for weeks and months. And from what we learn there, we will become the first nation in the history of mankind to set foot on the red planet of Mars.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the Space Policy Directive – 1 after signing it, directing NASA to return to the Moon, alongside members of the Senate, Congress, NASA, and commercial space companies in the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017.
Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Under President Trump, we are doing just that.

In our first year in office, after it had laid dormant for nearly a quarter-century, President Trump revived the National Space Council to coordinate our nation’s space activities and bring the full force of our national interest to bear on decisions driving our space enterprise.

President Trump also recognizes that in this new era of opportunity, we will not fully unlock the mysteries of space unless we look beyond the halls of government for input, guidance and innovation.

That’s why we’ve unleashed American companies that are on the cutting edge of the space industry – developing the rockets, spaceships, and technologies that will take us further into space, faster than ever before.

And thanks to our administration’s decisive actions, America’s pioneering space companies are creating the American jobs of the future and blazing new trails into the skies above.

From the cargo ships that are resupplying the International Space Station, to the reusable lunar landers that will help put Americans back on the moon and the Space Launch System that will carry us deeper into space than ever before, America’s space industry is helping forge our future in the heavens above.

We know what the men and women of Apollo knew: The rules and values of space are written by those who have the courage to get there first and the commitment to stay.

Credit: ESA/NASA

So to continue the proud tradition established in the Apollo program, and to ensure that our most cherished values prevail in the skies above, President Trump has made it our national policy to return to the moon in the next five years – and this time, we will stay.

The first woman and the next man on the moon will both be American astronauts, launched by American rockets, from American soil. The United States will lead the creation of a base at the moon’s South Pole where astronauts could reside for weeks and months. And from what we learn there, we will become the first nation in the history of mankind to set foot on the red planet of Mars.

Credit: NASA

Under President Trump’s strong leadership, we’ve already signed into law one of the largest NASA budgets since the days of the Apollo program. And I am proud to announce that the crew vehicle for the Artemis I mission – our first step back to the moon – is officially “capsule complete.”

The tasks before us will involve hardship and hazard, sacrifice and determination. But we shall go forth – not in spite of the difficulties, but because of them.

Just as Apollo 11 united the world 50 years ago, so too will the United States astonish the world with the heights we reach and the wonders we achieve in our own age.

And under President Trump, we will lead the world into space once again.

This op-ed appeared at Fox News on July 20, 2019.

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