Vice President Pence To Visit Kennedy Space Center For 50th Anniversary Of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

“The debt this nation owes to our Apollo astronauts we can never fully repay. Thank you Neil, Buzz, and Michael for your bravery and courage in our pursuit to explore space! #Apollo50th,” Pence wrote on Twitter on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch.

Pence, the chairman of the White House National Space Council, last visited Cape Canaveral in December of 2018. 

On this latest trip, Pence will speak at the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on “the success of Apollo 11 – one of humanity’s greatest achievements – and address progress in NASA’s return to the Moon with the upcoming Artemis missions.”

Pence is also set to visit Launch Complex-39A, the pad where Saturn V launched from 50 years ago and where SpaceX has been conducting Falcon 9 missions. 

Prior to the trip, the vice president joined Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, the family of Neil Armstrong and President Donald Trump at the White House to commemorate the historic day. 

“Just had an excellent meeting with President Donald Trump! We discussed America’s future in space, ways to address space challenges, and the need to keep exploring beyond the horizon. Keep America Great in Space!! #Apollo50 #ApolloXI,” Aldrin wrote on Twitter in regards to the meeting. 

While Aldrin said the meeting went well, he added that he’s “disappointed in the progress in the past 50 years.” 

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was also at the White House meeting. He told Aldrin the space agency is hard at work trying to get astronauts back on the moon and beyond.

“We Go: To the Moon and on to Mars. Today’s #Artemis generation will explore farther than we’ve ever gone before. The Artemis program will send the first woman and next man to walk on the lunar surface and build a sustainable base to prepare for missions to Mars and beyond,” Bridenstine wrote on Twitter.

At a Senate panel hearing on Wednesday, Bridenstine asked for a steady stream of funds for moon missions. The goal is to get astronauts on the moon by 2024, which is why Bridenstine said “it would be devastating” if NASA was unable to secure funding to develop a lander.

NASA was originally tasked with reaching the moon by 2028 but the Trump administration accelerated those plans, moving up the timeframe to 2024.

The Artemis program has the following mission milestones:

  • Artemis 1 – Uncrewed launch and flight around the moon in 2021

  • Artemis 2 – Crewed launch that tests “free return” loop around the moon in 2022-23

  • Artemis 3 – Crewed launch and landing in 2024

In between those launches, NASA plans to construct an orbiting Gateway around the moon as well as a space station on it. 

“Expanded Gateway and surface capabilities later in the decade could support surface exploration that lasts for weeks or months and test the technologies and systems needed for missions farther into the solar system, including Mars,” Bridenstine said. “This will be critical to supporting the agency’s plans for sustainable lunar exploration.”