Vice President Mike Pence announced that the US plans to land astronauts on the Moon within the next five years, the media reported.
The nation had been shooting for a 2028 lunar touchdown, but “that’s just not good enough,” Pence said during the fifth meeting of the National Space Council (NSC), which he chairs.
“We’re better than that,” he added, the Space.com reported on Tuesday.
So, it is now the official policy of the US to return astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, the vice president stressed, invoking a 21st-century space race with China and Russia.
“Urgency must be our watchword,” Pence said at the NSC meeting, which was held at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
“The US must remain first in space in this century as in the last, not just to propel our economy and secure our nation but, above all, because the rules and values of space, like every great frontier, will be written by those who have the courage to get there first and the commitment to stay.”
And the US is indeed committed to stay, Pence added. The nation’s next giant leap in space, he said, involves establishing a permanent base on the lunar surface “and developing the technologies to take American astronauts to Mars and beyond.”
That base will likely be built near the moon’s south pole, which harbours abundant water ice on the floors of permanently shadowed craters. The NSC, which helps steer and streamline the nation’s space policy, will recommend today that NASA’s next crewed surface mission target that region, Pence said.
According to the Space.com, the vice president acknowledged the aggressiveness of the 2024 timeline but stressed that it is achievable, citing the successful Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, just 12 years after the dawn of the space age.