Merritt Island, FL
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I will say that today was a very important day. And while a lot of folks might be disappointed that the launch did not actually happen, a lot of good work really happened today. I take great pride, I think we as Americans take great pride in America’s space program historically and today. We have and we continue to be a leader.
The Artemis Program is building on all of the work that happened that we saw 50 years ago when we planted a flag on the Moon — America’s leadership. And this building off of that 50 years later is a program that will not only just — not only go to the Moon, but it’s not going to be a temporary visit. When the Artemis Program launches, this is with the goal of humans being able to live and work on the Moon, and with the next step being to travel to Mars.
So it is very exciting. And what today was was a test. It was a test of pure innovation, inspired by the possibilities of what we know can be, and America’s leadership on all of that.
So I’m very thankful to the engineers, the astronauts, the technicians, who I spent time with today at NASA, the private-sector partners. We have the international partners that we have. The work that happened today was a test that is also going to teach us what we can learn about what was working and what wasn’t working.
Innovation requires this kind of moment where you test out something that’s never been done and then you regroup and you figure out what the next step will be to get to the ultimate goal, which for us is going to the Moon and showing how humans can live and work on the Moon. And again, with the next step being to go to Mars.
Q Madam Vice President, specifically, it’s going to —
AIDE: Michael. Michael, what was your question?
Q Reflecting on just the significance of today is Artemis I, but having an opportunity to see the hardware —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q — that will be part of Artemis II and III, those human missions —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q — how do you reflect on the fact that that progress is tangible and is ongoing?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, it’s so entirely — it’s brilliant in — the work. So Artemis I is to test the ability of us to actually go and circle the Moon. And then Artemis II will be — that it will actually be a crew that will be on, or — and doing that work. And then III is that we actually then — that crew will land on the Moon and begin to live and work on the Moon. So this is the first step in that.
What I saw today are the capsules that are being built for Artemis II and Artemis II. The technology is extraordinary. I met with — I met with a technician who is third in her family — third generation to work on our space program. The first generation — her grandfather — worked on Apollo.
And so you look at every layer and every step from those first shuttles to the Moon to what we’re doing now and how the technology is evolving. It’s extraordinary. It’s extraordinary what we’re going to be able to do to test, for example, our ability to have heat shields — right? — around the reentry. That’s a big issue.
And so, scientists and engineers have been working on this for a decade, figuring out how we can keep this mission intact and allow it to do what the previous missions really probably dreamed was possible but couldn’t do at that time.
AIDE: Tariq with Space.com.
Q Vice President Harris, Tariq Malik with Space.com. You saw the Artemis III capsule. That’s the one that will take —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q — who NASA says “the first woman,” “the first person of color” to land on the Moon.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q Why is it important to have that kind of diverse and inclusive approach in a new era of deep space exploration?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, today, I spent a lot of time with our astronauts and with members of Space Force — Space Guardians — and students who are studying STEM. And they are every background you can imagine — young people who are smart, women, people of color.
And what they bring to the process is experiences that — that are the range of human experiences. They give perspective that — that cover the range of perspectives that we want to incorporate not only in the mission itself, but how we are thinking about space exploration. Because so much of space exploration is about science. It’s about research. It’s about testing our ideas of what is possible, and then seeing if it can come true. The diversity of thought that goes into that — the more diverse, the better the outcome will be. So, it’s very exciting.
And I have to tell you that Space Force/NASA really have made a real solid commitment to diversity among who is getting into the program, who are going, and who’s traveling to space. And I think we can all be very proud of that.
Q Who specifically is footing the bill for student loan forgiveness? We haven’t gotten a concrete answer from the administration yet.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let’s start with this: First of all, a lot of the same people who are criticizing what we rightly did in following through on a commitment that we made to forgive student loan debt are the same people who voted for a tax cut for the richest Americans. So when we look at who is benefiting from this, 90 percent of the people who are going to benefit from student loan forgiveness make under $75,000 a year, and that debt has been the reason that they’re unable to start a family, buy a home, and pursue their piece of the American Dream.
Q Are you worried about the big price tag of this rocket?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Listen, I think that we have to always look at the return on any investment we make. And the return on an investment for space exploration and being able to put human beings on the Moon where they can work and live — it’s going to be immense.
Everything from what we are going to learn about what we need to do around rejuvenation of — of essential needs, in terms of essential resources; what is going to happen in terms of the scientific research; what is going to happen in terms of that extension of the work that we have been doing around a public-private partnership to invest in further innovation. It’s immense.
The last time we put people on the Moon, there was so much that came out of that that was intended and some unintended — in terms of the benefits that it allows for science and medical research — and the same thing is going to happen here.