US Vice Pres­i­dent vis­its Kennedy Space Cen­ter

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

CAPE CANAVERAL: Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence got an in­sider’s look at Kennedy Space Cen­ter on Thurs­day and promised more glory days ahead for “this gate­way to the stars.” Pence is head­ing up a newly re­vived Na­tional Space Coun­cil. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re-es­tab­lished the ad­vi­sory group last week. “Here from this bridge to space, our na­tion will re­turn to the moon, and we will put Amer­i­can boots on the face of Mars,” he added, draw­ing cheers and ap­plause from the hun­dreds of space cen­ter work­ers, as­tro­nauts and dig­ni­taries.

The high­light of Pence’s af­ter­noon tour - his second NASA stop in as many months - was his ad­dress to ap­prox­i­mately 1,200 peo­ple in­side the mas­sive Ve­hi­cle Assem­bly Build­ing, once used to stack moon rock­ets and space shut­tles. The back­drop in­cluded three cap­sules: the first SpaceX Dragon to carry sup­plies to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, NASA’s Orion that flew into space on a test flight, and a train­ing ver­sion of Boe­ing’s Star­liner crew ves­sel.

Later, Pence got to see an Orion space­craft be­ing pre­pared for flight in 2019 atop NASA’s as yet-un­flown megarocket, the SLS or Space Launch Sys­tem. He was driven past the for­mer shut­tle launch pad that will serve as the de­par­ture point for SLS flights, as well as the pad from which as­tro­nauts rock­eted to the moon and space shut­tles soared, now leased by SpaceX. On Wed­nes­day night, SpaceX suc­cess­fully launched a Fal­con rocket with a com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lite, and so the pad was empty Thurs­day. Pence said he was sorry to have missed the launch. “I was pray­ing for rain at the Kennedy Space Cen­ter so we might see that rocket go up to­day,” he said.

Last month, Pence vis­ited John­son Space Cen­ter in Hous­ton to help in­tro­duce Amer­ica’s new­est as­tro­nauts. Florida’s Kennedy was the second stop on his grand NASA tour. It is NASA’s launch hub, but hasn’t seen any astro­naut take­offs since the shut­tles re­tired in 2011. Boe­ing and SpaceX are work­ing to change that with their own crew cap­sules. Apollo 11 moon­walker Buzz Aldrin was in at­ten­dance Thurs­day, as were Florida’s se­na­tors, Bill Nel­son and Marco Ru­bio. This wasn’t Pence’s first visit to Cape Canaveral. He at­tended sev­eral launches as a con­gress­man and re­called how his son, now a Marine avi­a­tor, was in­spired by see­ing a liftoff up close.

Pence said he will con­vene the Na­tional Space Coun­cil “be­fore the sum­mer is out.” This is its third rein­car­na­tion; it was aban­doned in 1993 un­der the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion. Since then, Pence said, “our gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment” has not matched the level of ex­cite­ment for space that ex­ists among the gen­eral pub­lic. He said that will change and re­peat­edly called this a new era of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship in space. He gave no time­lines or de­tails, how­ever, on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plans for get­ting as­tro­nauts back to the moon and on to Mars. NASA is shoot­ing for as­tro­nauts at Mars some­time in the 2030s, us­ing Orion, the SLS rocket and other craft. — AP

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