Cer­e­mony turns a lit­tle bit “spacey”

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Avi Selk

WASH­ING­TON» Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cer­e­mony Fri­day to bring back the Na­tional Space Coun­cil be­gan to con­fuse peo­ple even be­fore it took place.

It was, Trump would say, a big deal: an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to res­ur­rect an ad­vi­sory coun­cil that kick-started the first moon mis­sions 60 years ago, went dor­mant in the 1990s, and could now lead as­tro­nauts into deep space — even to Mars.

“At some point in the fu­ture, we’re go­ing to look back and say how did we do it with­out space?” is how the pres­i­dent put it.

Yet the sign­ing sur­prised many: The White House had not listed the cer­e­mony on the pres­i­dent’s calendar, no one from NASA head­quar­ters came, and the only fe­male astro­naut in at­ten­dance was left off the thankyou list.

Not to men­tion the pres­i­dent’s some­times baf­fling re­marks about the cos­mos.

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, who will chair the new space coun­cil, in­tro­duced the pres­i­dent and oth­ers gath­ered in the Roo­sevelt Room.

“Es­pe­cially the three Amer­i­can as­tro­nauts,” he said, list­ing NASA’s Alvin Drew, former astro­naut David Wolf and “the sec­ond man on the moon: the leg­endary Buzz Aldrin.”

“Wel­come to the White House,” Pence said.

But he didn’t men­tion the former astro­naut stand­ing about 5 feet away — Sandy Mag­nus.

Trump would also name the three male as­tro­nauts with­out men­tion­ing Mag­nus, an omis­sion no­ticed in the space com­mu­nity.

Mag­nus didn’t seem put off, though. She wrote Satur­day on Twit­ter that she had at­tended the cer­e­mony as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute of Aero­nau­tics and Astro­nau­tics, and hadn’t been wear­ing a NASA uni­form like two of the men.

“Our trav­els be­yond the Earth pro­pel sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies that im­prove our lives in count­less ways here,” Trump said, list­ing new in­dus­try, tech­nol­ogy and “space se­cu­rity” among the ben­e­fits.

“At some point in the fu­ture, we’re go­ing to look back and say how did we do it with­out space?” Trump then said, caus­ing Aldrin’s eye­brows to shoot up.

Eye­brows across the Internet would do like­wise as Trump pro­ceeded through his speech, a mix of elo­quence and ques­tion­able ad-libs.

“The hu­man soul yearns for dis­cov­ery,” Trump said, for ex­am­ple. “Our jour­ney into space will not only make us stronger and more pros­per­ous, but will unite us be­hind grand am­bi­tions and bring us all closer to­gether.

“Wouldn’t that be nice? Can you be­lieve that space is go­ing to do that?”

Some who learned that Pence will chair the new coun­cil re­mem­bered that when he was a con­gress­man, he chaired a Repub­li­can study group that rec­om­mended can­cel­ing NASA’s space ex­plo­ration pro­gram — no moon or Mars trips — to save money.

But Pence’s 2005 plan didn’t go any­where, and Fri­day on Twit­ter he said he was “hon­ored and frankly en­thu­si­as­tic” about lead­ing the Na­tional Space Coun­cil.

Trump as­sured those gath­ered that “Mike is very much into space.”

Then he sat down at a ta­ble and opened the ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

“I know what this is,” he said. “Space!”

Be­side him, Aldrin chimed in with a quote from the astro­naut char­ac­ter Buzz Lightyear from the movie “Toy Story.”

“In­fin­ity and be­yond!” Aldrin said. Ev­ery­one laughed. Then Trump added some lines of his own.

“This is in­fin­ity here,” he said. “It could be in­fin­ity. We don’t re­ally don’t know. But it could be. It has to be some­thing — but it could be in­fin­ity, right?”

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