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'American leadership in space will be assured,' VP Mike Pence says at National Space Council

  • White House officials and space industry executives met Thursday at the first National Space Council since it was disbanded in 1993.
  • "American leadership in space will be assured," Vice President Mike Pence said.
  • Executives of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, SpaceX and Orbital ATK each stressed a similar desire to lead the world in space exploration.

Led by Vice President Mike Pence, several White House officials and space industry executives met Thursday at the first National Space Council since it was disbanded in 1993.

"American leadership in space will be assured," Pence said. "We will return Americans to the moon ... and build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond."

The meeting's opening remarks focused on moving away from the current outsourcing of manned launches, in which American astronauts go to space on Russian rockets.

"America seems to have lost our edge in space," Pence said. "Rather than lead in space, too often we've chosen to drift and, as we learned 60 years ago, when we drift we fall behind."

"America must lead in space once again," he said.

Chief executives Marillyn Hewson, Dennis Muilenburg and David Thompson — of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Orbital ATK, respectively — each stressed a similar desire to lead the world in space exploration. None of the CEOs reiterated Pence's statement that America is behind in space leadership.

"We have proven that U.S. ventures in space lead to broad societal benefits that lift our national economy," Hewson said.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson participate in the first meeting of the U.S. National Space Council at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, October 5, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson participate in the first meeting of the U.S. National Space Council at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, October 5, 2017.

Muilenburg joined Hewson in emphasizing the space industry's role in the U.S. economy. He said Boeing is "America's largest manufacturing exporter" and that accomplishments in space "can unite a nation." With Boeing's CST-100 Starliner in development as a part of the NASA commercial crew program, Muilenburg noted that continued and similar efforts require monetary support.

"It is important we have long-term stability on funding," Muilenburg said.

It will only be a few years before American astronauts can be put on the moon using these companies' vehicles, Thompson said.

"U.S. astronauts can carry out several cislunar voyages in the next five years," Thompson said.

In a separate panel of executives Pence called "the entrepreneurial side of space," SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell further backed the strides taken by U.S. companies, saying America "is out-innovating the rest of the world."

Pence said America "will win the 21st century in space." He identified the council as a way to build a coherent vision for U.S. policy and strategy in space.

"There is nothing more inspiring than the country's space program," Muilenburg added.