Pence at KSC: 'America will once again lead in space'

By Greg Pallone, Bailey Myers, Digital Media Producers, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017, 6:38 PM EDT

Saying that it's America's destiny, Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the nation's commitment to space exploration during a visit to Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.

Pence addressed more than 1,000 space workers and dignitaries inside the iconic and massive Vehicle Assembly Building, the place where Saturn V rockets and space shuttles prepped for missions during the past five decades. It's now being used as an assembly building for the Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket that NASA has built.

It was Pence's first visit to KSC, the second stop on his tour of the nation's NASA facilities, and comes less than 24 hours after SpaceX successfully blasted off a Falcon 9 rocket from KSC's Launch Complex 39A.

Air Force Two landed on the world's longest runway, the site where dozens of space shuttles touched down after missions in orbit. On board with Pence was Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. NASA officials including acting administrator Bob Lightfoot and KSC Director Bob Cabana, greeted the pair as they descended the airplane's stairs.

Pence reiterated that he will head a revived National Space Council, comprised of government leaders and experts, that's been dormant since 1993. President Donald Trump re-established the advisory group on Friday.

"With the National Space Council, we will grab that destiny with both hands," Pence told the crowd.

The council that was disbanded 25 years ago and dates back to the dawn of the U.S. space program firmly rooted on the Space Coast. Pence reinforced the president's vision that space is the next "Great American Frontier."

Pence relayed a message from President Donald Trump of the commitment of American leadership in space by going back to the moon, exploring Mars and even beyond.

"We will develop policies that will carry human space exploration across our solar system," Pence said.

He was firm in saying American security will be as dominant in the "heavens" as it is on Earth.

"We will beat back any disadvantage that our lack of attention has placed, and America will once again lead in space for the benefit and security of all of our people," he said.

Pence also spoke of returning to the moon but didn't offer any specifics on when or how we would go back.

After delivering remarks to the crowd in the massive VAB, Pence toured the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, where the Orion spacecraft is being assembled. That spacecraft is designed to take astronauts farther into space, possibly to explore asteroids and even to Mars.

Last month, Pence visited Johnson Space Center in Houston to help introduce America's newest astronauts.