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Pence says NASA will put people on the moon again

Vice President Mike Pence addressed NASA employees in July

Pence tweeted that it is a "great honor" to serve as the National Space Council's chair.

Pence made the administration's intentions known in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, as well as a speech he gave during the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council - a newly resurrected executive group aimed at guiding the United States space agenda.

For now, it's unknown how this destination shift will affect NASA's long-term plans.

Former President George W. Bush launched an ambitious plan to travel to the moon and Mars a decade ago, but President Barack Obama ultimately scrapped the plans over cost concerns. On Thursday the council will hold its first meeting in almost 25 years, and as its chairman, I will deliver a simple message: America will lead in space again. Pence also stressed the importance of commercial companies maintaining a permanent presence in lower Earth orbit so that NASA could focus on deep-space missions.

Unlike previous government-run efforts at space exploration in the past, Pence said, the new goal will be to "look beyond the halls of government" and partner with private USA space exploration companies.

Space industry leaders said they and NASA are building the spaceships to get there.

Pence pledged that the Trump administration, with the help of the NSC, will develop and implement a coherent, long-term US space strategy.

This seems to clearly be a reference to innovative rocket design and reusability coming from new space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin. But the cancellation of the manned program meant NASA would need global assistance to go to Mars, angering former astronauts, who issued a statement denouncing the "devastating" plan that "destines our nation to become one of second- or even third-rate stature". Currently, there are six people aboard, including three Americans. "And we will once again astonish the world as we boldly go to meet our future in the skies and in the stars".

"America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars", Pence wrote. Perhaps we'll see some changes to the budget later this year, or perhaps with the president's budget request early next year.

"Space is vital to our national security".

Pence, who has been meeting with NASA researchers at centers across the country for the past few months, said he was humbled to be the chairman for the revived council.