As NASA prepares an ambitious return to the Moon, Vice President Mike Pence has assured the public that the agency’s efforts are “on track”.
Speaking at the sixth meeting of the National Space Council on August 20, Pence shared the progress NASA has achieved on key elements of Artemis, the agency’s crewed exploration program that aims to return the US to the Moon and to push beyond to Mars. Pence outlined the progress of the development of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, and the agency’s work with commercial partners developing human-rated lunar landers.
“The Artemis mission has already begun. We’re well on our way to making NASA’s moon-to-Mars mission a reality,” said Pence during his opening remarks at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center.
In addition to outlining the progress of Artemis thus far, Pence emphasized that the US planned to look beyond the Moon to humankind’s first crewed missions to Mars. “Once we return to the Moon, we’re going to develop the technologies to live and thrive in a multi-month expedition at its south pole,” he said. “Using what we learn on the Moon will bring us closer to the day, as the president said, that American astronauts will plant the Stars and Stripes on the surface of Mars.”
Later in his speech, Pence stated that NASA’s “Moon-to-Mars mission is on track.” Although it’s unclear exactly what he meant by “on track”, one can assume it was in reference to his March 26 call to land humans at the south pole of the Moon within five years. However, with delays in the development of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft likely to push the maiden Artemis mission past its 2020 launch date, it is difficult to conclude that Pence’s words are anything more than political bluster.