Vice President Mike Pence, in his capacity as chairman of the newly reformed National Space Council, went to the Kennedy Space Center to tour the NASA-commercial launch facility. While he was there, he addressed center employees at the Vehicle Assembly Building in which he opened up about the Trump administration’s space policy. Along with the usual bromides about restoring American leadership and pushing back the high frontier of space, and quotes from President John F. Kennedy, Pence confirmed something that has been whispered about since before Trump was elected.

America is returning to the moon.

Maybe the third time will be the charm

The money line in the Pence speech was, “Our nation will return to the Moon, and we will put American boots on the face of Mars.” In fact, he repeated the phrase twice to make sure that he was understood. NASA will be engaged in space exploration in a big way under the Trump administration.

Of course, Pence offered no details as to how this new space exploration program will take place, how much it will cost, how soon people will be back on the moon, and how soon American boots will be on Mars. Ars Technica's Eric Berger tweeted that he had heard that there would be a request for information (RFI) from NASA for the building of a lunar lander.

A lunar lander could be a robotic probe, though private companies like Moon Express and Astrobotic are already building those, and NASA could buy flights on them. The new lunar lander could, it is hoped, return people to the moon for the first time since 1972.

It should be noted that the speech Pence gave has been given before, by two president’s named George Bush.

For various reasons, the grand vision of space exploration did not come to fruition. Will the third time be the charm? Congress seems to be more willing to appropriate money for NASA, more so indeed than the Trump administration thus far. Will President Trump “make it happen” as Pence said and exercise some leadership? Stay tuned.

Buzz Aldrin was in the audience

Along with both Florida senators, Nelson and Rubio, and a gaggle of other local politicians, the venerable presence of Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, could be seen. Aldrin’s appearance was fraught will irony. The last time a space policy speech was given at the Kennedy Space Center, he had been present as well. Aldrin heard Barack Obama invoke his name when he announced that America would no longer return to the moon. It was only fitting that he be there when Vice President Pence announced that the terrible folly would be reversed.