Remarks by the Vice President at the Sixth Meeting of the National Space Council in Chantilly, Virginia
Well, thank you, Dr. Stofan. Thank you for that kind introduction. And thank you for your tremendous stewardship and your tremendous leadership. Would you join me in thanking Dr. Ellen Stofan for her outstanding leadership? (Applause.)
To all of the members of the National Space Council, to our User Advisory Group — all of whom very quietly came onstage — I think they all deserve a big round of applause. These are extraordinary Americans that are making a difference for American leadership in space. (Applause.) Would you join me in thanking them?
And to our gracious host, the Smithsonian Institution, and all of the men and women here at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, it's a great honor to be with all of you today. Thank you for your patience today. Thank you for your attendance today. And welcome to the sixth meeting of the National Space Council.
You know, it was three years ago that a candidate for President came alongside his new running mate, and he said to me, "You know, this thing called the National Space Council has lain dormant for more than 25 years. And I was wondering if you'd like to follow the tradition of past Vice Presidents and chair a renewed National Space Council?" And I looked at him, and I said, "Would I?" (Laughter.)
So join me in thanking a leader who is committed to securing American leadership on Earth and in the vast expanse of space. Join me in thanking the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.) His leadership has made a difference, and you'll hear about that today. (Applause.)
You know, it was nearly two years ago — right here, at the National Air and Space Museum — that we held the first meeting of the National Space Council.
So we can think of no better place to hold our sixth meeting, where we're going to reflect on the progress that we've made and how our administration and the United States is on track in our efforts to expand and renew American leadership in space.
And, really, I can think of no better time — no better time to be here and to celebrate the progress of our renewed leadership. Because it was one month ago, the world paid tribute to three extraordinary American astronauts — the crew of Apollo 11 — and the 400,000 men and women who stood behind them 50 years ago. It was "one small step" and "one giant leap." (Applause.)
And what a great celebration it was. So many of you were a part of it, not only here in our nation's capital, but all across the country. And I have to tell you, it was deeply humbling for me to be able to spend time with many of the men and women and heroes that made that moment possible. And they secured, in a very real sense, American leadership in space.
But as we gather here today, we do so recognizing that it's been 47 years since the last American set foot on the moon. In fact, our great shuttle program, including the space shuttle Discovery behind me, was grounded nearly a decade ago.
And the truth is, as all of you know, for too long America was content with low-Earth orbit, and missions focused on the Earth instead of aiming for the stars.
But I'm proud to report that under President Trump's leadership, all of that is changing. As the President said in his Inaugural Address, "We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space…" And that's exactly what we're doing. (Applause.) It's true.
After two and a half years under the President's leadership, America is leading in space once again. This President recognizes what the American people have known for more than a half a century, and that is that our security, our prosperity, and our very way of life, depend on American leadership and American leadership in space.
Now, we acknowledge that low-Earth orbit is not our final destination, but rather it is a training ground for the infinite frontier of space. And I can assure you the American people are ready for the next chapter in our nation's history in space.
So at the President's direction, we've — we've put an end to decades of budget cuts and decline. And we've renewed America's commitment to human space exploration, vowing to go further into space, farther and faster than ever before.
That's why, in our first year in office, President Trump signed Space Policy Directive-1, making it the national policy of the United States of America to return to the moon and prioritize crewed missions to the lunar surface.
SPD-1 marked a watershed moment in America's space enterprise. And with it, the President finally gave NASA the clear direction and clear mission that it needed.
As he said, we will "return American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use," not only to "plant our flag and leave our footprint," but we will go there to "establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars." (Applause.)
Earlier this year, President Trump made it the policy of this administration to return to the moon by 2024 and ensure that the next man and the first woman on the moon will be American astronauts. (Applause.)
The Artemis mission has already begun, and we're well on our way to making NASA's Moon to Mars mission a reality. You'll hear more about that today.
To give NASA the resources they need to accomplish this mission, the President signed into law the agency's largest budget ever. And, as we speak, we're working with Congress to add an additional $1.6 billion to support our renewed commitment to human space exploration.
The Space Launch System, known as SLS — the world's most powerful rocket that will launch American astronauts toward the moon — will be fully assembled by the end of this year.
Last month, we marked the "capsule complete" on the Orion capsule. It's the spacecraft that we all know will sit on top of the SLS, and it will carry the first crewed ship designed to deep space exploration in a half a century.
And just last week, we announced that the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will lead development of our new lunar lander. And, working with Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, we will ensure that a new generation of astronauts have the state-of-the-art vessel to reach the lunar surface safely and return by 2024. (Applause.) We're going to get it done.
In fact, Administrator Bridenstine told me that with congressional support that we've got, we can actually start "bending metal" on the lander in the next year. Whatever that means. (Laughter and applause.)
I'm proud to report, also, we've empowered our commercial partners. In recent months, SpaceX successfully docked its automated Crew Dragon capsule at the International Space Station, Blue Origin tested engines for its own lunar lander, and Boeing is working hard to launch its first crewed vehicle by the end of this year.
And working with industry leaders, before the year is out, the United States will once again send American astronauts into space on American rockets from American soil! (Applause.)
So we're making great progress, but we have new ambitions in this still-new century. America is not only going to return to the moon, but we're going to return there with new objectives. Because unlike a half-century ago, this time our objective will be to establish a permanent presence on the lunar surface. And from there, we will develop the capabilities to journey to the red planet of Mars.
In order for us to take the next big leap toward the Martian surface, you all here know that we have to demonstrate that we can live on the moon for months and even years. We have to learn how to make use of all available resources to sustain human life and all our activities in space, including by mining the vast quantities of life-sustaining water that's frozen in ice on our lunar poles.
And 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.
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." (Applause.)
In fact, within the last year, American technology touched down once again on Martian soil. As all of the world witnessed, the InSight mission touched down and marked our eighth successful landing on Mars. And even now, the men and women of NASA are hard at work identifying those areas of the red planet that would be most suitable for human exploration. We're not only planning to go, we're preparing to go.
And much like the Apollo missions — when our space program relied on tools and methods that didn't exist when the mission was established — achieving our ambitious goals will depend on innovative technologies, including those that our panelists are going to talk about today.
But unlike during Apollo, this time our efforts will not rely entirely on government action. Instead, we will go forward into that bright future with the strong support of our private partners and international allies.
Already, NASA is working with industry leaders to develop plans for the Lunar Gateway: a critical outpost and refueling station that will help us develop the technologies, test the systems, and train the astronauts for the first-ever crewed journey to Mars.
Our Moon to Mars mission is on track and America is leading in human space exploration again. Don't you doubt it. (Applause.)
As we'll also talk about today, under the President's leadership, we've also unleashed America's commercial space industry as never before. As the President said memorably not long ago, "Rich guys love rockets." (Laughter.) And we've taken steps to make it possible for American entrepreneurs to invest and to help America develop the technologies that will carry American leadership into space.
As Secretary Ross will no doubt reflect again today, we're streamlining the licensing regimes that oversee launch, re-entry, and new operations in space. We're removing unnecessary regulations that have increased costs and stifled innovation. All of that's happened over the last two and a half years.
We've encouraged a more stable and orderly space environment by developing the world's first comprehensive Space Traffic Management Policy.
And as we've restored confidence in the opportunities of space, we've helped drive incredible economic growth. Just two years ago, the satellite industry alone generated some $350 billion in revenue, and studies predict that number will increase to more than a trillion dollars annually in the next two decades.
And more than ever, space is recognized as the industry of the future. In the first half of this year, we've seen almost as much invested in space companies as we did in the entire year before. In fact, in the last decade, more than $22 billion has been invested in nearly 500 different space companies. And I'm proud to say that the majority of those investments have been made in American space businesses. America is leading in public and private investment in space. (Applause.)
But as we all know, as we lead in human space exploration, as we lead in American innovation and entrepreneurship in space, we also must lead in security. And for the sake of our security, both here on Earth and in the heavens above, at President Trump's direction we are working with Congress as we speak to stand up a new branch of our armed forces. And soon, Congress will approve and the President will sign the sixth branch of the Armed Forces of the United States: The United States Space Force. (Applause.)
As the President has said, we all recognize — and it's been, frankly, true for decades — in his words, space is "a warfighting domain." And the United States Space Force will ensure that our nation is prepared to defend our people, to defend our interests, and to defend our values in the vast expanse of space and here on the Earth with the technologies that will support our common defense from the vast reaches of outer space.
Next week, we will formally stand up the new unified combatant command that will be known as the United States Space Command. And I'm pleased to announce that we will recognize its new leader. Four-star Air Force General John Raymond will be the first leader of the United States Space Command. Thank you, General. (Applause.)
And before I move on from General Raymond, let me mention another general who's here with us today: General Joe Dunford, who is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He has served this nation throughout his long career in uniform with extraordinary distinction. He has played a critical role in ensuring the national defense of the United States. And he will be concluding his duties as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the months ahead.
And would you all mind getting on your feet and just showing how much we appreciate the extraordinary life and career and leadership of General Joe Dunford? (Applause.)
Thank you, General. Thank you for your service. And thank you for your leadership, particularly on the matters pertaining American leadership in space. It is a historic contribution. And I know the President feels, as I do, that we would not be at this historic moment without your leadership and your support.
Later this morning, we're going to hear more about our administration's progress toward a new unified defense agreement to defend America's national security space assets and also ensure our collective defense.
But for all that we've accomplished, the greatest triumphs of American leadership in space still lie ahead. And you'll hear about those plans today. The National Space Council today will send new policy recommendations to the President that will help drive even greater cooperation between our government, our commercial partners, and like-minded nations across the world — nations that share our values of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.
We will build on the success of the International Space Station by working with our friends and allies to support a moon landing in 2024; to develop sustainable, long-term lunar surface operations; and to build a spacecraft that will carry us to Mars.
We'll also continue to unleash the creative powers of America's commercial space enterprise. This council will recommend today steps that will encourage innovation and ensure that American companies have the level playing field they need to compete and win in space.
And we'll continue to transform NASA into a leaner, more accountable, and more agile organization. Isn't that right, Jim?
ADMINISTRATOR BRIDENSTINE: Yes, sir.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.) Good.
We're going to make it easier than ever to recruit and retain the world's brightest scientists, engineers, and managers. And we're going to hit our goals and we're going to make new American history in space.
You know, President Trump tasked the National Space Council with reigniting and reinvigorating the American space program. And I'm humbled and proud, at the same time, to say that's exactly what this team has done. And that's what we're going to continue to do with the support of so many of you gathered here today.
As President Trump said, in his words, "It is America's destiny to be…the leader amongst nations on our adventure into the great unknown." And that's why the National Space Council was reconstituted, and that's what brought us here today.
And while the tasks before us involve hardship and hazard, sacrifice and perseverance, we know what the men and women of Apollo 11 knew 50 years ago, and that is simply this: That Americans can accomplish anything we set our minds to. And America will lead the world back into the vast expanse of space. (Applause.)
So thank you all for being here today. We're grateful to the members of the National Space Council, our advisory group, all the experts and industry leaders who are joining us here today. And I look very much forward to our dialogue and our discussion. And the support that I see in this room, the support that I hear from not only people involved in the great space enterprise across this country, but from everyday Americans from every walk of life, convinces me that we have only just begun to renew American leadership in space.
So, thank you all. Thank you all for your support. Thank you for your presence here today. And let's get to work. (Applause.)
(Roundtable discussion commences.)
* * * * *
(Roundtable discussion concludes.)
How about a round of applause for this whole panel? (Applause.) This is a remarkable group of Americans.
With that, time is of — is a little scarce, and so I trust that members of the National Space Council have reviewed the recommendations that have been presented to meet the President's objective on human space exploration and also encouraging and promoting private sector innovation.
As those looking on in the public will note, these include specific timelines for reforms of workforce acquisition rules, management, and industrial base issues. They also create opportunities for international and commercial partnerships.
And I recommend to the public's attention the public record that you will find that we are setting specific timelines for the Administrator in the next 60 days to designation of an office and submission of a plan for a sustainable lunar surface exploration and the development of crewed missions to Mars.
In the next council meeting, a plan to report on the technologies and capabilities necessary to implement sustainable lunar surface exploration. And there are other very specific goals for NASA, and we'll thank the Administrator in advance for continuing to move out on those directives.
We'll also be recommending that NASA facilitate the development of commercial and public-private successors to the International Space Station and set a timeline for the Department of Commerce on the Authorization of Commercial Space Operations not currently regulated by any other federal agency. And complementary to our commercialization of the International Space Station, the staff will present the councilmembers a Moon to Mars development strategy.
One of my takeaways today is Dr. Clive Neal used the term "prospector" to describe activities on the lunar surface and on Mars, and it brings to mind the old West, and it's just exactly how we ought to be thinking about ensuring that we're developing the resources of space and giving taxpayers a return on investment, as you said so well.
But we'll be calling for a Moon to Mars development strategy that'll take in all the technological capabilities that we have, and also, the Director will be presenting the National Space Council with a plan to modernize the workforce.
With that, if we — all those in favor of endorsing these recommendations by the National Space Council signify by saying "aye."
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All opposed, "nay."
In the opinion of the chair, the "ayes" have it, and the recommendations will be forwarded by the unanimous decision of the National Space Council. And I'll be discussing these recommendations with the President later today, and we'll be forwarding them to agencies at the President's direction.
With that, let me simply close by saying thank you to all of the members of the National Space Council, to members of our User Advisory Group, and invite the crowd to join me in thanking these incredible Americans for their contribution to American leadership in space. Great job. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Rex Geveden, Dr. Clive Neal, Dr. Saralyn Mark, and Dr. Elizabeth Turtle for a tremendous contribution to this discussion today. And your testimony today and your written testimony will continue to inform our work. So join me in thanking our panel one more time. (Applause.)
America is leading in space once again thanks to the vision and the leadership of President Donald Trump. We have redoubled our commitment to lead on behalf of human exploration with NASA at the tip of the spear to engage our private sector partners to work in new and in renewed ways with the American people to advance American leadership.
And with the President's direction as Commander-in-Chief, we are reorganizing our commitment to provide for the common defense in developing the United States Space Force, the U.S. Space Command, and to develop the technologies to protect this nation going forward.
I know looking out at this crowd and I know to those looking on, there is tremendous enthusiasm for President Trump's leadership in space. But I ask only today that those of you who share this passion for renewed American leadership in space, go tell the story. It's exciting to be here at the Smithsonian. We have made a point, now this being the sixth meeting of the National Space Council, to travel. And our objective is to help relight the imagination of the American people of this space program. Fifty years is a long time. I know what I'm talking about. (Laughter.)
But our determination — our determination is to capture the imagination of the American people — of men and women, and boys and girls all across this country — and, really, to inspire the world.
And so I encourage each and every one of you — and maybe it'll be assisted if, before you leave here today, if you take a long stroll through this historic place, if you look at these tremendous remnants of American leadership in space.
But I just want to challenge each and every one of you industry leaders who are here, those that are looking on, educators and public servants, is: Go tell the story, and go tell the story of American leadership in space. Tell the story not just to those who represent you in Washington, D.C., and to leaders at every level. But tell the story in your communities, in your state, and all across this nation.
And I know, with your energetic support, with President Donald Trump's leadership and vision, with this extraordinary team that he has assembled, the work of NASA, and with God's help, America will lead mankind into the vast expanse of space.
So, thank you very much. And God bless you. (Applause.)
Mike Pence, Remarks by the Vice President at the Sixth Meeting of the National Space Council in Chantilly, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/334141