Vice President Mike Pence announced Tuesday the U.S. is going to send astronauts back to the moon’s surface in 2024, four year earlier than NASA had been planning.
Pence, speaking at a Huntsville, Ala., meeting of the National Space Council, said the original 2028 target date was “just not good enough.” Recalling the Kennedy administration’s efforts to send astronauts to the moon in 1962, only 12 years after the dawn of the space age, Pence said nine years was too long to wait. “We’re better than that,” he said, according to various press reports.
The National Space Council was created in 1989 before being disbanded in 1993. President Trump revived the council in June 2017 through an executive order. Six months later, Trump made it official U.S. space policy to return humans to the moon by as early as 2018. Tuesday’s announcement shortens the timeline, giving NASA only five years to return Americans to the moon.
“President Donald Trump has asked NASA to accelerate our plans to return to the Moon and to land humans on the surface again by 2024,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap—sending astronauts to Mars ”
Pence’s speech expressed a note of impatience toward NASA, saying that a rocket known as the Space Launch System—which Boeing has been developing for 18 years while running billions of dollars over budget—has “been plagued by bureaucratic inertia, by what some call the paralysis of analysis.”
The council will recommend that Trump force NASA to “embrace a new mindset that begins with setting bold goals and staying on schedule.” One such goal is to prepare for a crewed mission’s landing near the moon’s south pole, which scientists believe contains enough ice that can be used to support life.
“Urgency must be our watchword,” Pence said at the meeting. “It’s not just competition against our adversaries. We’re also racing against our worst enemy: complacency.”