VP Pence reinforces lunar convictions at Apollo 11 celebration
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, July 20 at the center’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. His appearance came at a time when the agency both remembered past achievements and worked toward restoring a long-lost capability.
Pence spoke about the legacy of the Apollo Program at length. However, he made remarks that the agency that sent men to the Moon back in the 60s and 70s would regain the long-lost ability of sending astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. NASA would be able to achieve this via the Artemis Program, an initiative that could see the first woman set foot on the Moon as early as 2024.
“Thanks to the hard work of the men and women of NASA, and of American industry, the Orion crew vehicle for the Artemis 1 mission is complete and ready to begin preparations for its historic first flight,” Pence said.
The Vice President’s next stop was historic Launch Complex 39A, currently leased by SpaceX, where the historic Apollo missions began.
As one might imagine, Pence wasn’t alone at such an important event that honored one of the greatest achievements in human history. Also in attendance were Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Apollo 11 Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, Kennedy Center Director Robert Cabana, Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Marillyn Hewson, along with Rick Armstrong (the son of Apollo 11’s Commander Neil Armstrong).
The U.S. Vice President made his comments beside the Orion spacecraft that has been produced to conduct the first combined flight of the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System.
“Orion is a new class of spaceship, uniquely designed for long-duration deep space flight, that will return astronauts to the Moon and eventually take the first humans to Mars, and bring them all back safely,” said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin via a company-issued statement. “Orion will accelerate scientific discovery of our solar system and will be the cornerstone of the defining space achievement of this era.”
This view was echoed by Pence during his tour of KSC.
“Similar to the 1960s, we too have an opportunity to take a giant leap forward for all of humanity,” said Bridenstine. “President Trump and Vice President Pence have given us a bold direction to return to the Moon by 2024 and then go forward to Mars. Their direction is not empty rhetoric. They have backed up their vision with the budget requests need to accomplish this objective. NASA is calling this the Artemis program in honor of Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology, the goddess of the Moon. And we are well on our way to getting this done.”
NASA has had this opportunity, off and on, presented and taken away from it for the past 15 years. In 2004, the “Vision for Space Exploration” (VSE) was announced which had the goal of sending crews to “…the Moon, Mars and Beyond.” This included the Constellation Program, of which the Ares I and Ares V rockets as well as the Orion spacecraft and Altair lander were the key components were a major part.
In 2010, President Barack Obama cancelled all elements of the VSE with only the Orion spacecraft and Ares V rocket (renamed the Space Launch System) surviving. The combined stack of SLS and Orion was set to launch on Exploration Mission 1 under Space Policy Directive 1. With the unveiling of the Artemis Program in March of 2019, Exploration Mission 1 was redubbed Artemis 1. At present that mission is scheduled to launch in June of 2020.
Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.