Before departing for his 4th of July vacation, President Donald Trump signed an executive order reviving the National Space Council. The Space Council will consist of the heads of NASA and various cabinet departments and will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. The council will coordinate the implementation of space policy across the government and provide the president advice for the development of the same.

What is the National Space Council?

The National Aeronautics and Space Council was first formed in 1958 and was first headed by President Dwight Eisenhower.

The Council acquired more influence with the election of President John F. Kennedy when it was chaired by Vice President Lyndon Johnson and helped coordinate the Apollo race to the moon and the formation of COMSAT. The Council was disbanded in 1973 under President Richard Nixon.

President George H. W. Bush created the National Space Council in 1989 in part to help coordinate the Space Exploration Initiative. However, the Space Council was noted for its clashes with then NASA Administrator Dick Truly and the failure to get the initiative off the ground. It was disbanded under President Bill Clinton.

Why is President Trump doing this?

Trump is trying to signal that he regards space as a crucial part of his desire to “make America great again.” He waxed eloquently about the exploration of space, the growing role of the private sector, and the power of space to bring about strength and prosperity and to unite the country.

He was not very specific about what he intends to do with NASA, which no doubt a speech for another day. He did note that the National Space Council would consult with an advisory group that will consist of scientists, innovators, and business leaders, but which ones he did not reveal.

Who was at the signing ceremony?

The audience at the signing ceremony was a motley group, consisting of the vice president, the secretary of commerce, a couple of NASA astronauts, former Rep.

Robert Walker, who has provided space policy advice to the administration before, former NASA flight director Gene Kranz, and Buzz Aldrin. Some media outlets noted the lack of representatives from the commercial space sector. Aldrin provided a moment of levity when he exclaimed, “To infinity and beyond!” This remark seemed to bemuse the president, who evidently has never watched “Toy Story.”

What happens now?

The National Space Council has to acquire staff, including an executive director, rumored to be former NASA official Scott Pace. Then it has to start meeting to do its work developing and implementing the space policy of the Trump administration, a work still in progress.