Published: Fri, March 29, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

US wants astronauts back on Moon within five years: Pence

US wants astronauts back on Moon within five years: Pence

"It's time for the next giant leap", Mr Pence said, alluding to the words spoken by the first Moonwalker Neil Armstrong in 1969.

That won't be necessary, according to Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who on Tuesday assured the vice president that "we, the people of NASA, are up to the challenge".

He said: "It's time to redouble our effort". "It can happen, but it will not happen unless we increase the pace". In the early '70s, it took NASA eight years to land at the moon when they still didn't know how to do it, said Pence.

He added, "In order to accomplish this, NASA must transform itself into a leaner, more accountable and more agile organization".

But outside experts were skeptical that the goal could be achieved.

The ambitious goal would cost tens of billions of dollars it seems NASA will be able to rise back after a struggle with the help of private partners to carry out manned missions from the U.S. soil for the first time since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned mission to land on the moon.

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"Now's come the time to make the next giant leap and return American astronauts to the moon, establish a permanent base there and develop the technologies to take American astronauts to Mars and beyond".

For decades, NASA has flip-flopped between the moon and Mars, a victim of changing presidential administrations.

In November, NASA named nine USA companies, including Lockheed Martin Corp, that would compete for funding under the space agency's renewed private-public partnership for developing technology to explore the lunar surface. Two weeks ago, he said NASA was considering using private rockets instead to launch its new Orion capsule around the moon without a crew on a test flight next year. At the Council meeting, Bridenstine defended SLS, asserting he is confident it still can meet its current July 2020 launch schedule by eliminating unnecessary steps. "I laud President Donald J. Trump & VP Pence for renewing our nation's commitment to ensuring American leadership in space".

"We will be the first nation to return astronauts to the moon in the 21st century", Pence said. This longtime rocket know-how is why Huntsville is nicknamed Rocket City. But NASA officials later clarified that a moon landing within five years was, indeed, the stated objective. It was unacceptable, Pence said, that SLS delays and cost overruns point to a 2028 target date - almost two decades after the SLS program began.

He was speaking at a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama. But Americans don't do second place. "We have laid out a clear plan for NASA's exploration campaign that cuts across three strategic areas: low-Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars and deeper into space".

NASA said it is going with a commercial and global partners to explore faster and explore more together.

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