Pence Promises Strong NASA, Provides Few Specifics

Mike Pence

Expectations were middling for Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance at an event in Houston during which NASA introduced its new class of astronaut candidates. He did not disappoint.

There were some hopes he might announce the nomination of a new NASA administrator. Or some new program. Or something newsworthy.

None of that happened. Pence did give a well-delivered speech long on platitudes, promises and soaring rhetoric about exploring the reaches of space but short on specifics.

Perhaps that was just as well. The focus was kept on the astronaut candidates on the stage, not on a visiting politician from Washington. It’s unlikely a visit by President Donald Trump would have played out the same way.

As to the platitudes and promises without specifics, here’s a rundown on what Pence said.

The vice president did reiterate the Trump Administration’s plan to revive the National Space Council after a 24-year gap. However, he gave no timetable for doing so.

Reportedly, the executive order to reestablish it has been drawn up and is awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature. When that might happen is unknown.

Pence would head the council, whose job it would be to coordinate space activities across the government.

The council previously existed during the 1960’s when NASA landed astronauts on the moon, and for four years during the term of President George W. Bush, whose proposal to return humans to the moon quickly fizzled.

The vice president reiterated the administration’s desire to make NASA great again so the world would admire it once more. Apparently, the agency is not doing great things right now and is not admired abroad, despite landing rovers on Mars and sending spacecraft to Jupiter and Pluto.

He also promised the administration would provide NASA with all the resources it needs to fulfill that mission, notwithstanding the $500 million cut it has proposed in the space agency’s fiscal year 2018 budget.

Pence said the administration would refocus the space agency on deep-space exploration. This is actually code for Trump to Earth Science: drop dead!  The Administration has proposed slashing five Earth science missions that would provide valuable data on global warming.

Pence spoke of increasing public-private partnerships without providing any details on what that would entail.