America will return to the moon within the next five years, according to Vice President Mike Pence, who announced on Tuesday that he has directed NASA to fulfill the order using the troubled Space Launch System (SLS) rocket or one from a private space company.
"It is the stated policy of this Administration and the United States of America to return astronauts to the Moon within the next five years," Axios reported Pence as saying.
The Trump administration wants to see Americans on the moon to establish a permanent human presence, but the five-year timeline likely will prove a tough sell.
"We're actually being told the earliest we can get back to the moon is 2028," Pence said. "Now that would be 18 years after the SLS program was started, and 11 years after the president of the United States directed NASA to return American astronauts to the moon. ... That's just not good enough.”
The vice president, who Axios noted chairs the U.S. Space Council, was speaking at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, which is the primary center of the SLS program.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine also has suggested the possibility of using commercial rockets to put Americans on the moon again, which together with Pence’s statements appears to indicate that the administration will consider the option seriously if SLS is not up and running quickly enough.