Remarks by the Vice President at a Meeting of the National Space Council

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Chantilly, Virginia

10:17 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. General Dailey, thank you for that kind introduction and thank you for your extraordinary record of service to this United States of America and to this national treasure. (Applause.)

Members of the Cabinet, distinguished members of Congress who join us here today, honored guests, and to our gracious hosts -- the Smithsonian Institution, the National Air and Space Museum, and all the men and women of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, it is my great honor to be with you today here at the inaugural meeting of the reconstituted National Space Council. (Applause.)

And I bring greetings from a man who is committed to American leadership on Earth and in the boundless expanse of space, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

In his Inaugural Address, the President rededicated America once again to lead in the heavens and in his words to “unlock the mysteries of space.”

And to guide this new era of American space leadership, President Trump relaunched the National Space Council. And it is my great honor -- in fact, it’s very humbling for me -- to have the opportunity to serve as its chair at the first meeting in nearly a quarter-century.

I can’t think of a better place for this first meeting than right here, at the National Air and Space Museum. In the hangars and galleries of this museum, some of the great monuments of human ingenuity and daring have come to rest -- the first airplane to complete a transcontinental voyage across the United States, which took 49 days in 1911.

all of you, the spy plane that led America’s reconnaissance operations during the Cold War, faster than three times the speed of sound and at more than 16 miles above the Earth, the legendary SR-71 Blackbird.

And the shuttle behind me that ferried astronauts to space for more than 26 years and logged a record of 148 million miles -- the Space Shuttle Discovery is a national treasure. (Applause.)

Each vessel here represents a pinnacle in the history of man’s quest for knowledge and adventure. They remind us of the giants on whose shoulders we all stand. They inspire the millions of visitors who pass through this museum every year to dream bigger, work harder, and push farther in our own day.

Today, in the shadow of this history, we pledge to do what America has always done: We will push the boundaries of human knowledge. We will blaze new trails into that great frontier. And we will once again astonish the world as we boldly go to meet our future in the skies and in the stars. (Applause.)

Now, it’s altogether fitting that we chose this week for the first meeting of the National Space Council. Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of Sputnik -- that 184-pound satellite that changed the course of history. On that day, six decades ago yesterday, the race for space began, and the then-Soviet Union took an early lead.

But the sight of that light blinking across that October sky spurred America to action. We refused to accept a future in space written by the enemies of freedom, and so the United States of America vowed to claim our rightful place as the undisputed leader in the exploration of the heavens. And 12 years later, with “one giant leap for mankind,” America led in space. (Applause.)

But more than half a century later, we have ceded ground. So we gather here today to renew this same mission in our time. By reviving the National Space Council, President Donald Trump has declared to all of the world: America will lead in space once again. (Applause.)

For my part, as I said, it’s an honor to chair this council. I caught space fever when I was a kid back in a small town in southern Indiana. Some of the most precious memories of my youth were our little family gathered around black-and-white television, watching images of American heroes making history in the stars.

As a member of Congress, I actually asked to serve on the NASA subcommittee in my very first year in the Congress. I had the privilege, along with my wife and all of our children, to attend several space shuttle launches as a family.

I actually have no doubt that, as I told the general this morning, a fellow Marine with my son, that I think my son was inspired to be a Marine Corps aviator when he was a 10-year-old boy, sat in the grandstands, and watched with awe as America’s astronauts hurtled into the heavens.

I said at the time that the sights and sounds of the launch at Cape Canaveral were miraculous. It was almost as though as the flames came from beneath the ship, it was as though the Earth was giving birth to a piece of the sun and sending it home -- the power and the symbolism of unquestioned American leadership was inspiring to us all.

But in recent years, the clarity of our purpose and the confidence of our conviction that propelled the United States to be a vanguard of space exploration seems to have waned. America seems to have lost our edge in space -- and those days are over. (Applause.)

the American people have never lost our passion to explore space and uncover its secrets, this summer, I visited the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where I met with the men and women of NASA -- including, as the general said, the newest class of astronauts. They still embody -- as generations did before, they embody the courage and excellence that has long inspired the American people.

for too long our government’s commitment has failed to match our people’s spirit and meet our nation’s needs. The truth is that America entered this new millennium without a coherent policy, a coherent vision for outer space. And in the absence of American leadership, other nations have seized the opportunity to stake their claim in the infinite frontier. Rather than lead in space, too often, we have chosen to drift. And, as we learned 60 years ago, when we drift, we fall behind.

Our struggle to define the direction and purpose of America’s space program dates back decades to the post-Apollo period. We had just won the race to the moon and suddenly the question became: What should we do? Where should we go next?

In the debate that followed, sending Americans to the moon was treated as a triumph to be remembered, but not repeated. Every passing year that the moon remained squarely in the rearview mirror further eroded our ability to return to the lunar domain and made it more likely that we would forget why we ever wanted to go in the first place.

And now we find ourselves in a position where the United States has not sent an American astronaut beyond low-Earth orbit in 45 years. Across the board, our space program has suffered from apathy and neglect.

When the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, we had four years to find an assured way for our astronauts to get into space. In the meantime, we agreed to pay Russia to hitch a ride on their rockets to the International Space Station. But four years turned into five, and five years turned into six, and here we are, in 2017, still relying on the Russians to ferry our astronauts to the International Space Station -- at a cost-per-seat that now stands at more than $76 million.

rather than competing with other nations to create the best space technology, the previous administration chose capitulation. According to the U.S. intelligence community, Russia and China are pursuing a full range of anti-satellite technology to reduce U.S. military effectiveness, and they are increasingly considering attacks against satellite systems as part of their future warfare doctrine.

abdication of leadership in space has spurred our nation to action once more. And just as with Sputnik six decades ago, we have resolved, with the leadership of President Donald Trump, to never again let America fall behind in the race for space. (Applause.)

That's what brings us here today. And under the President's leadership, we will restore our proud legacy of leadership on this next, great frontier, and America will lead again.

Twice before, America has had a National Space Council, charged with advising the President on a national policy and strategy for space. The first Space Council helped marshal America’s energies and skills during the infancy of our attempts to reach the stars. And it was under the council’s watch that America put a man in outer space, put a man on the moon with less than a decade between them.

President Trump has charged this National Space Council with reviewing America’s current policy and our long-range goals and coordinating all national space activities -– from security to commerce to exploration.

Today, more than ever before, our nation’s prosperity, security, and identity depend on American leadership in space. And the membership of this council -- all members of our Cabinet, critical members of our national security infrastructure -- reflect the multi-faceted nature of our work.

Joining me here today as members of this council are several members of the President’s Cabinet – leaders in defense, intelligence, commerce, transportation, space exploration, science, and technology. Would you please give them another round of applause for making this a priority? (Applause.)

But to fully unlock the mysteries of space, President Trump recognizes that we must look beyond the halls of government for input and guidance. At the President’s direction, the National Space Council will also, in his words, draw from the expertise and insights from scientists, innovators, and business leaders like never before. We will tap into the bottomless well of American innovation once again.

American companies are on the cutting edge of space technology, and they’re developing new rockets, spaceships, and satellites that will take us further into space, faster than ever before.

Like the railroads that brought American explorers, entrepreneurs, and settlers to tame the Wild West, these groundbreaking new technologies will open untold opportunities to extend the range of American action and values into the new worlds of outer space.

And by fostering much stronger partnerships between the federal government and the realm of industry, and bringing the full force of our national interest to bear, American leadership in space will be assured.

The objectives of the National Space Council are clear. The President has charged us with laying the foundation for America to maintain a constant commercial, human presence in low-Earth orbit.

there, we will turn our attention back toward our celestial neighbors. We will return American astronauts to the moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond. (Applause.)

The moon will be a stepping-stone, a training ground, a venue to strengthen our commercial and international partnerships as we refocus America’s space program toward human space exploration.

under President Trump, this council will spur the development of space technology to protect America’s national security. Space is vital to our national security. I saw firsthand when I visited Schriever Air Force Base and the Redstone Arsenal earlier this year.

And as I said, our adversaries are aggressively developing jamming, hacking, and other technologies intended to cripple military surveillance, navigation, and communication systems. In the face of these actions, America must be as dominant in space as we are here on Earth.

friends, the task that lies before us will require the highest levels of commitment and dedication. And the work before us will be difficult, but difficulty always brings out America's best. And America’s best is unbeatable by anyone, at any time. We won the race to the moon a half a century ago, and now we will win the 21st century in space. (Applause.)

Under President Trump’s leadership and with the guidance of this National Space Council, the United States will usher in a new era of space leadership for our nation that will benefit every facet of our national life.

We'll strengthen our economy, as we unlock new opportunities, new technologies, and new sources of prosperity. We'll inspire our children to seek education in science, technology, engineering, and math. We'll enhance our defense and advance the security of our citizens.

most of all, as the President believes, we will renew the American spirit itself and rekindle our belief that America can accomplish anything.

As President Trump has said, in his words, “It is America’s destiny to be the leader amongst nations on our adventure into the great unknown.” And today we begin the latest chapter of that adventure.

But as we embark, let us have faith. Faith that, as the Old Book teaches us that if we rise to the heavens, he will be there.

as we make plans and we prepare recommendations for our President and our leaders in the Congress, we will also do so with the mind that there will be courageous men and women who will make those plans a reality. And our faith in them, and our faith that they will not go alone will sustain us as we go, as it ever has before.

with thanks for all the members of the Space Council; thanks for all the honored guests for whom we will hear. Welcome to the first gathering of the National Space Council. Let's get to work. (Applause.)

* * * * *

THE VICE PRESIDENT: We are at the end of this first meeting of the National Space Council. I want to thank each of the members of the council and your staffs for what has been an enlightening and engaging dialogue and from where I’m sitting -- and I trust where the President is sitting -- a very good start on a new beginning for the National Space Council; and for the development of renewed American energy in space exploration, both in the area of civil space exploration, commercial space exploration, and, of course, our presence in space contributes to our national security.

Also I want to thank our staff in particular, and you could stand while I say your name -- Daris Meeks, who is our policy director; Scott Pace who is leading the National Space Council; Jared Stout and the team. Thank you for pulling together a very successful day. I’m very pleased. Good job, guys. (Applause.)

Lastly, to be brief, to my fellow council members, you have your marching orders. Let’s work on a 45-day timeframe for turning around recommendations and proposals to the President based upon this first meeting of the National Space Council.

I think today we proved that many of the best ideas that will shape American space policy will come from outside the halls of government. And I can assure all of those present that we're going to continue to avail ourselves of the very best and brightest American minds as we develop policies for presentation to President Trump.

I’m pleased to report in that vein that very soon, the President has directed us to re-launch the National Space Council’s Advisory Group to foster close coordination, cooperation, and technology information.

This group will bring together a broad range of truly exceptional Americans -- men and women who are committed to advancing and renewing American leadership in space.

In the days ahead, NASA will enter a notice into the Federal Register to kick off the process of recruiting candidates for the group. And the President will make a selection based on the recommendations of the National Space Council for who is appointed to that. And we encourage any citizens who have an interest to avail yourself of the opportunity to express that interest going forward.

The members will all be private citizens, but their work for this council will be of the highest public service.

So I think we heard many themes today. I won’t take any more of people’s time other another than to say thank you. Thank you to all of our -- can we give another round of applause to the distinguished panels that presented today? (Applause.)

We're grateful for your time, grateful for and inspired by your words and your leadership. I’m grateful for members of the National Space Council, Cabinet members who are here. Thank you for making this a priority. We got a lot of work to do, but as the President said in his Inaugural Address, “In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.”

And with the President’s strong leadership, with the participation of this council, with the support of many distinguished Americans, I’m confident America will lead in space again.

you very much and God bless you. (Applause.)

END

12:41 P.M. EDT

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