In NASA speech, Mike Pence shoots for the Moon (and Mars)

Taking a break from touching pieces of sophisticated technology labeled “do not touch” in a Kennedy Center clean room, Vice President Mike Pence made a speech to NASA yesterday that further signaled the Trump administration’s apparent enthusiasm toward space exploration.

Pence’s appearance at the NASA facility was tied to his role as the chair of the reestablished National Space Council, a “high-level group [that] advises the president and comprises the leaders of government agencies with a stake in space.” During his appearance, Pence came out strong with some big promises for the U.S. space program, reiterating what we’ve heard before from the Trump administration.

“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 proclaimed. “For nearly 25 years, our government’s commitment seems to have not matched the spirit of the American people. But I’m here to tell you, that as we still enter this new century, 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 the security of all of our people and all of the world.”

All told, these are bold yet curious claims for an administration openly hostile to the scientific community. The Trump administration’s interest in Mars and deep space contrasts starkly with its proposal for massive cuts to scientific agencies across the board, particularly any that fund climate research. As the White House’s budget proposal states, the administration intends to “[focus] the Nation’s efforts on deep space exploration rather than Earth-centric research,” for better or worse. Still, by offering little in the way of budget and policy specifics, Pence’s moonshot is likely to remain on the ground for now.

You can watch his full speech to the Kennedy Center, embedded below.