US Returning to the Moon Within Five Years, Vice President Mike Pence Says

Walking on the Moon

Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the Trump administration was committed to sending astronauts back to the moon within the next five years, four years earlier than what NASA has originally targeted.

"The first woman and the next man on the moon will both be American astronauts launched from rockets from American soil," Pence reportedly told attendees at the fifth meeting of the National Space Council at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.

Current estimates from NASA indicate that the agency wouldn't be able to send astronauts back to the moon until 2028 at the earlier, Pence says that's not "good enough" and that the U.S. was once again engaged in a space race against "adversaries" like Russia and China. Pence added that the space agency should use any means necessary, including rockets and launchers from private companies, to get the U.S. back to the moon.

"If commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the Moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be," said Pence. "Urgency must be our watch word."

NASA's current target date for a mission to the moon is 2028 at the earliest.

mission to the moon

Returning to the moon won't be cheap. When the U.S. first went to the moon in 1969, the Apollo missions cost the U.S. the equivalent of $120 billion (adjusted for inflation). That number is likely to skyrocket even higher

NASA's current budget is a little over $21 billion.

"Some will say it’s too hard, too risky, too expensive," Pence said. "But the same was said back in 1962."

Currently, NASA plans on building an orbital space station in orbit around the moon, known as the Gateway. The station would serve as a base for astronauts to travel to and from the moon's surface. But NASA doesn't plan on beginning construction of the Gateway until 2022 at the earliest. Additionally, the space agency is currently developing its next generation of heavy-lift rockets, called the Space Launch System, which is designed to bring a crew capsule known as "Orion" into deep space. The new rocket is also designed to bring up cargo and new modules to the lunar space station.

The monster rocket has seen a series of delays and cost-overruns, forcing the rocket's debut flight to be pushed back to June, 2020.

The National Space Council is chaired by the vice president, and includes groups working on commercial, scientific, and national security space operations from a policy perspective.

A human being hasn't set foot on the moon since December 1972, when Apollo 17 commanded by Commander Eugene Cernan and lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt touched down on Earth's closest neighbor, where they stayed for 75 hours.

Photos: Getty Images

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content