VP Pence Calls for Manned Moon Landing by 2024

Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence asked NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to accelerate lunar exploration plans during a National Space Council meeting held at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Pence calls for targeting a human landing on the Moon in 2024, the council also discussed creating a new Moon to Mars Mission Directorate.

NASA had recently floated a plan to land Americans near the Moon’s south pole in 2028.

Pence had the following announcements:

  • VP Pence made it clear that the US is not committed to any one contractor. Pence said “If our current contractors can’t meet this objective [getting manned missions to the moon by 2024] then we’ll find ones that will [meet the mission objectives]. The objective will not change but the agency and the contractors will be changed.
  • Private work has begun on the Lunar Gateway and precursors to new moon base
  • Canada has signed up for a 24-year partnership on the Lunar Gateway
  • four-star Air Force General John Raymond will lead the US Space Command part of the unified Space Force
  • They signed the largest NASA budget (not inflation adjusted)
  • The SLS and Orion was fully funded again.

National Space Council members talked about needing less bureaucracy and NASA and Congress need to have greater tolerance for risk.

SOURCES – Direct quotes and citation from Video recording of statements by VP Pence at the Fifth Meeting of the National Space Council.

Written by Brian Wang

45 thoughts on “VP Pence Calls for Manned Moon Landing by 2024”

  1. They want to go to the moon that bad. Rebuild what already had taken them there in the first place. Rework the computers to 1/100 the scale of what they were back then. Replace with more modern lighter stronger materials were applicable. Smaller computers and lighter materials should allow for more cargo and fuel. You know, put in the other good stuff like better radiation shielding and gourmet dinners.

  2. Hahahah…Good catch.

    I also note how you set up the prerequisite condition that Trump & Pence win a second turn in 2020 as well.

    Now that I have pointed that out, watch the TDS wackos raise hell.

  3. The idea behind the Sea Dragon, IIRC, was that it would be built in ship yards, which had experience building enormous structures out of steel. Aside from that, launching from water did simplify some of the support systems. But it also had complications.

    For reusability, you want to avoid prolonged exposure to seawater, it’s somewhat corrosive.

  4. OK, makes sense to do it that way. I just figured there was a reason for the water launch, such as the rocket that big being too large for the facilities to handle.

    WOW! What a launch that would be! I used to watch the space shuttle launch from the Cape when I was young, but this would be much larger than that. I don’t live in Florida any more, but I would happily travel across the country for that one, just for my son to see it.

  5. Oh good I was worried somebody would forget to make this about politics. It is a rule to inject politics in to any discussion of rocketry. Serious demerits if you have a post that doesn’t make this about how Pence is some kind of backward knuckle dragger.

    Bravo to Pence! He is willing to switch contracting to SpaceX from the contractors making SLS.

  6. “Lockheed Martin’s reusable LOX/LH2 lunar crew lander concept would appear to be the best approach for returning humans to the Moon.”

    No a SpaceX reusable Starship is the best choice. Refuel in LEO, go straight to the Moon and back. You can take the methane for the return trip and top off on ISRU LOX.

    Lockheed’s lunar crew lander only exists in PPT files and they aren’t going to fund it themselves. Even if it had funding it would take a decade of development and and multiple SLS launches to make it real.

  7. Yep. Enough of the one-of-a-kind exotic material ships made in a clean room with ultra-expensive, ultra-frail stuff with unknown mechanical and thermal properties.

    A honest Heinlein-like rocket made of steel, with very well known parameters and limitations, that can be built rapidly and with scalable performance is the real way forward.

    Trains and ships don’t work because of technical subtlety and mass reductions, but out of sheer mass and power, the cheapness of their materials, and because they can be made and fixed by a welder.

  8. Color me confused, but didn’t we already land on the moon? No wonder Pence could never be the president; he doesn’t have enough imagination to choose a new celestial body to land on.

  9. Forget the Sea Dragon. Given SpaceX’s switch to stainless, once they have the Starship working they’ll have the tech to build arbitrarily large rockets. “Oh, you want to launch a 500 ton payload that’s 30 meters in diameter? No problem, is a six month lead time OK?”

    Just increase the tank diameter and gang more engines behind it. (Taller would be a lot more problematic.)

  10. I never liked that transporter; It’s wildly inefficient to travel from place to place by hovering on rockets. They rationalized it by claiming they were fusion rockets with insanely high ISP, so that the thing could hover for days, but it was still a stupid way to get around compared to hopping.

  11. It is interesting what NASA spends our $20bn on.

    • 30% is studying the weather – “Earth Sciences”
    • 26% is ISS “Space Operations”
    • 21% is Orion and SLS “Space Exploration”
    • 14% is overhead “Mission Services”
    • rest is space telescope, aeronautics, space tech, astrophysics

    The first one can be run by the Weather Channel. No.2 should be paid by people who make money from zero-g inventions and other countries. No. 3 could plausibly be done by NASA but folks like Spacex are probably much better at it. No 4 is mostly unnecessary if 1-3 aren’t done. No.5 I personally think is pretty cool stuff, mostly. R&D and new fancy tech and basic research. The commercializable part can be done via VCs.

    So all in all, what on earth (pun intended) should they be doing?

  12. Do Zubrin’s fully reusable commercial Moon Direct plan.
    Or some conventional Apollo-style LOR program with long-duration habitat modules on the surface for an actual base.
    But for the love of god, don’t do that awful 3 stage LOP-G epi-circle plan. It’s atrocious and looks like something a lazy first year engineering undergrad put together.

  13. When Pence said that the USA would land astronauts on the moon by 2024, I’m assuming he didn’t actually say the words “one week before voters go the polls to vote me in as president” but it would be safe to assume that’s what he was thinking.

  14. No, no.
    Paper rockets are much cheaper, they have higher performance and there aren’t any political barriers to rapid completion.

    They are kind of like paper fusion reactors, paper fission reactors, paper rail projects and paper military campaigns.

  15. Lockheed Martin’s reusable LOX/LH2 lunar crew lander concept would appear to be the best approach for returning humans to the Moon. It would operate out of NRHO with enough propellant to land anywhere on the lunar surface and return back to NRHO. However, LockMart’s concept will require propellant depots or LOX/LH2 manufacturing water depots.

    The LockMart lunar lander will require 40 tonnes of propellant per mission. The Falcon Heavy should be able to deliver at least 16 tonnes of water or propellant to NRHO per launch. So monthly Falcon Heavy launches could deliver more than 192 tonnes of water or propellant to NRHO per year. That’s enough propellant for at least four round trip missions to the lunar surface from NRHO per year.

    Astronauts stationed at the NRHO Gateway would have the opportunity to travel anywhere on the lunar surface every six to eight days for the minimum travel time of just 12 hours. This would probably require them to remain on the lunar surface six to eight days before they can return to the Gateway, again, traveling just 12 hours on the way back to NRHO.

    The LockMart crew lander will probably be derived from the 5.4 meter in diameter Centaur V propellant tank technology. A single lander could be launched to LEO by the SLS with enough propellant to self deploy itself to NRHO. Or two landers could be launched to LEO by the SLS using propellant depots at LEO to self deploy themselves to NRHO.

  16. I kinda hope so. While I would prefer NASA lead it, they are just terrible with money & deadlines. I REALLY hope Elon is meeting with his SpaceX execs, and putting a pitch together. Might even be worth it to go public with it, instead of behind closed doors.

  17. Fund it with a reality show called Moonbase Alpha. See it as a test project for a Mars settlement, to iron out bugs and kinks.

    Let’s build the Eagle Transporter!

  18. “The SLS and Orion was fully funded again.”

    Yes…as certain commenters on NBF have been saying all along. 🙂

    It will always have funding. Because the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee is a totally bought and paid for whøre of the aerospace lobby, that’s why.

    But remember, Pence ALSO said this:

    The objective will not change but the agency and the contractors can be changed.

    Translation: the pork shall flow (SLS) while the actual results could be delivered via Space Force, not NASA and via SpaceX and not SLS.

    All the SLS folks are interested in is the pork, after all. And that is all NASA really exists for, too.

  19. The objective will not change but the agency and the contractors can be changed.

    Is that an explicit threat to bypass NASA completely? Wow!

  20. An outdated concept rocket that nobody is making?

    No thanks. I’m partial towards rockets that are actually being built somewhere by someone.

  21. Or that you must attack Trump’s policies just because it’s Trump.

    It’s painful to watch how many apparently sensible people bark in reflex, after anything Pence or anyone from Trump’s cabinet say.

    Partisanship is reaching mental disease levels.

  22. Hmm Bigelow doesn’t even list the 2100 on their website.

    I really wish they would make a page dedicated to what can actually be launched on SpaceX rocekts.

  23. I love finding people whose understanding of reality is so simplistic that they can’t handle criticism of Tesla coming from the same people who praise SpaceX.

    Like saying that you must think that The Boring Company is the best digging company evar because it is run by the same guy who launches rockets.

  24. SpaceX will put us on the moon before 2024, and when we’re there it should be made clear that Republicans like Pence did nothing to make it happen, in fact they spent over a decade villifying Elon Musk as a charlatan, so they actually did less than nothing to make it happen. Credit for the greatest technological and social advancement in human history should go where its due.

  25. It was put forth in the Space Policy Directive 1 in December 2017…so no secret here. It just took Bridenstine about a year to get comfortable in his job running NASA to set up this goal.

  26. Of course Musk knew. You can’t become so rich without a lot of contacts and behind the scenes knowledge of your industry.

  27. spacex with win over SLS eventually because spacex is motivated to build spaceship independently without NASA and thus have less bureaucracy to tell them they are not allowed to change anything in their design for mars spaceship… my experience with government contractors is that they don’t do iterative design work very well…once the idea moves out of research phase, everything is pre-planned from start to finish…and you are not allowed to change anything even if you have a better idea….or even if there was a flaw in the original design… that usually just mean they cancel the project because they are too tied by requirements to ever get themselves unknotted because they are not allowed to change anything… the requirement says the tanks must be carbon fiber… by jolly, if they are alumium tanks instead of carbon fiber because they can’t figure out how to make the carbon fiber tanks… they are not allowed to make that change to keep on schedule because the pre-planned requirement demands that they are carbon fiber or else…. look at star ship… elon…one day… ohh… you know what… i think we should use entirely metal everything… direction changes on that instance… no 4 levels of approvers to check off on it… I suppose if the requirments write has said, ahhh…carbon fiber tanks requires unless its a schedule issue, then aluminum tanks are ok…. ohh… but you would have had to have thought of that problem 10 years ago…

  28. And contrary to the Mars One fiasco, I’d believe they can fulfill their end of the bargain.

  29. I don’t know that a BA2100 can fit in or get out of the SpaceX Starship. It requires a 10m fairing SLS launch.

  30. Senate would need to eliminate funds. I certainly get the impression that the Trump administration would like it if SLS funds were diverted but they can’t do that on their own.

  31. Bummer (but not surprising). I had only watched the snippets on Twitter, which carefully avoid mentioning this.

    In that case, nothing to see here guys. It’s just business as usual in pork space.

    Let’s keep focused on the private upstarts that could topple the statu quo.

  32. Fair enough, I’d agree. They’ll probably build bigger privately, given the costs, then everyone will have astronauts on the moon.

  33. I was excited until this: “The SLS and Orion was fully funded again.”

    The SLS is a money pit that could easily absorb all that funding, and not even be ready to fly this decade. If you want a moon base by 2024, you have to forget the SLS, and go commercial.

  34. I did mean it as a compliment.

    Apollo-like in the results. A launcher that can take a lander to orbit, have it ready for trans-lunar insertion, land, explore and return. Sans infrastructure on the surface.

    The architecture can do much more, but my point was that the VP’s stated goals of sending Americans back to the Moon could be fulfilled within the expected time frame.

  35. “Apollo-like”? With in-orbit refuelling, it’s so much more than Apollo. It’s landing an entire ISS in a single trip. Probably more if you packed it with Bigelow modules. You could fit a single BA2100 in there with a bit of change for solar panels, and that’s 2.5x the size of the ISS. That’s a bloody big station.

  36. Despite all the cheekiness and cynicism about similarly stated goals in the past, this time if they are true to the goal, they could.

    That is, if they allow private companies to participate in the delivery of the required parts. Like space launchers, capsules and landers, all in a COTS, fixed price basis.

    SpaceX will most likely have a full Apollo-like lunar mission launcher and lander in the next 5 years. Falcon Heavy exists and can launch existing payloads, assuming they are allowed and the government parties are cooperative.

    Others can join too. Bigelow could make some nice orbital and surface habitats. And many others would be enticed if there was the prospect of contracts for those delivering the services.

    Of course, in the real world politics happens, and the usual particular interests will get in the way. My cynical assessment is this will most likely require a lot of political maneuvering even to happen within 10 years, to make sure all the impacted interest get their piece of the cake. This timeline would put it outside of the incumbent administration, and probably cause the goals to never materialize. Assuming everything is government-driven.

    But it can happen SpaceX actually delivers a workable platform for the stated mission within the time limit, and the government boondoggle is still planning to launch (or in the process of being redefined or cancelled Ares-style). What then? are they going to say ‘nevermind’ and take the chance with the newcomers?

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