By Tim Binnall
In a rather remarkable development, Vice President Mike Pence issued a bold directive to NASA to put humans back on the moon within the next five years. Speaking at the fifth meeting of the newly-revived National Space Council (NSC) in Huntsville, Alabama on Tuesday, he surprised many in attendance by announcing that, at the direction of the President, the United States was accelerating its timetable for putting people on the lunar surface. The previous plan aimed to accomplish the feat by 2028, but Pence declared this objective "not good enough."
As such, the Vice President announced that the NSC would "send recommendations to the president that will launch a major course correction for NASA." He expressed hope that the proverbial 'five-year plan' would "reignite the spark of urgency" in the space agency. Promising that NASA would use "any means necessary" to accomplish the goal of putting humans back on the moon, Pence indicated that private space companies would be enlisted to get the job done should they prove to be the most capable.
In a somewhat ominous testament to how serious the administration seems to be taking the new lunar plan, Pence mused that "if NASA is not currently capable of landing American astronauts on the moon in five years, we need to change the organization, not the mission." Beyond merely returning to the moon, the Vice President stressed the need to, once we arrive, put down roots and begin building a permanent presence on the lunar surface. "If commercial rockets are the only way to get Americans to the moon in the next five years," he said, "then commercial rockets it will be."
Pence argued that the ambitions of other space-faring nations made it imperative that the United States remain at the forefront of the frontier. "The first woman and next man on the moon will be American astronauts launched on American rockets from American soil," he told the assembly to rousing cheers. While it remains to be seen whether or not we'll see it happen by 2024, one can't help be optimistic after hearing Pence put forward a popular argument among many who have yearned to see a return to the moon: "it took us eight years to get to the moon the first time 50 years ago when we had never done it before," suggesting that another such mission in modern times shouldn't be nearly as difficult.