The Trump administration’s latest efforts in ramping up “American dominance in space” came in the form of a planned permanent U.S. presence “around and on the moon.”
The new move was announced during a speech by Vice President Mike Pence, who on Aug. 23 visited NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas to discuss the future of space exploration and the agency’s plans to return to the moon.
Pence urged staff members at NASA’s space center to establish the presence by 2020, before their eventual travel to Mars.
“We will open the way for innovators and development and we will lead once again in human exploration,” Pence said.
The Trump administration has made the moon a focal point because they recognize it’s “pivotal importance,” Pence said, adding that it is “the most important precursor to outposts on the moon and the mission to Mars.”
THANK YOU, @NASA_Johnson & @JimBridenstine! America will lead mankind to the stars once again. Our admin has restored the moon as the focal point of our national space activities because we recognize its pivotal importance—It's not a question of if, it's just a question of when. pic.twitter.com/MnlwqZ1pYH
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) August 23, 2018
It comes after President Donald Trump in June announced the creation of a “Space Force” that would be the sixth branch of the armed forces. At the time, Trump said the new military branch would be “separate, but equal” to the Air Force.
Pence said while they are currently shooting for the moon, it does not mean they are just going to leave behind footprints “or even to leave it all.” He then discussed plans for a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a NASA orbital outpost that would be located nearby the moon.
The new outpost would be used as a staging point for lunar exploration and the proposed Deep Space Transport, a concept that involves a reusable vehicle that uses electric and chemical propulsion. The vehicle would be designed for manned missions to destinations, such as Mars.
Pence said of the gateway, “we’re only a few short years away from launching the gateway’s first building blocks into space turning science fiction into science fact.”
He also mentioned the White House’ commitment to weaponizing space especially after other countries are ramping up their space productions.
“Just this week, the Pentagon released a report showing that China is aggressively weaponizing space. Russia, too, is developing and testing new and dangerous weapons and technologies to counter America’s space capabilities,” he said.
In July, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine showed his support for Trump’s “Space Force.” Under Trump’s executive order, the U.S. military is preparing for its creation.
“Every banking transaction requires a GPS signal for timing,” Jim Bridenstine told Bloomberg news. “You lose the GPS signal and guess what you lose? You lose banking.”
He also told Politico in a recent interview his thoughts about it.
“A lot of Americans don’t know this, how important space is to their everyday lives,” he said. “The way we navigate, the way we communicate.”
He noted that if GPS was shut down, it would have a domino effect that would end banking, then commerce and supply of basic goods in the market, leading to “civil unrest, the likes of which we haven’t seen before.”
“And the challenge here is you’ve got some of our near peer competitors, namely China, building their own GPS constellation at the same time they’re developing anti-satellite weapons that now go all the way up to geostationary orbit,” Bridenstine said.
“And it’s not just anti-satellite weapons, it’s co-orbital anti-satellite capabilities, jamming, spoofing, hacking, dazzling,” he said.
Joshua Phillip contributed to this report.