Colorado Springs, Colorado
12:23 P.M. MDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all. And, General Shelton, thank you for that kind introduction. And more importantly, thank you for a lifetime of leadership and service to our country. Would all of you join me in thanking this 38-year veteran of the United States Air Force, and the Chairman of the Space Foundation, General Willie Shelton. (Applause.)
To Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary Heather Wilson, Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Congressman Jim Bridenstine, Congressman Doug Lamborn, leaders of America’s armed forces, members of the Space Foundation, members of the National Space Council’s user group, and honored guests from all across this country and all across the world, it is my great honor, as Vice President of the United States, to address this extraordinary gathering of leaders, innovators, and pioneers who are forging our future in space. It is an honor to be at the 34th Annual Space Symposium. And I thank you for the invitation. (Applause.)
And to get started, I bring greetings to all of you from a great champion of America’s leadership in space and space exploration, a man who is committed to building American leadership here on Earth and in the boundless expanse of space. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
Before I begin, as you are all well aware, last Friday night, at President Trump’s direction, the United States, together with our allies France and the United Kingdom, launched precision strikes against the chemical weapons program of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. We acted in response to Assad’s horrific use of chemical weapons on his own citizens a little more than a week ago. It was an attack that horrified and shocked the conscience of the world.
The Armed Forces of the United States conducted what President Trump called “a perfectly executed strike,” crippling the chemical weapons program of the Assad regime.
But standing here, I’m mindful that many of the great American companies that helped develop the missile technology employed by our courageous armed forces are represented here today. And I would be remiss not to express the great admiration and gratitude of the Commander-in-Chief and the American people for all of the men and women whose creativity and ingenuity made these resources available to our armed forces.
President Trump and I could not be more proud of the efforts of our armed forces and our allies this weekend. And let me say to all of you here: We could not be more grateful to all of you who work every day to provide for the common defense for the United States of America. (Applause.)
It really is a great honor to be here at this 34th Annual Space Symposium.
You know, since day one of our administration, President Trump has been working to keep his promise to restore America’s proud legacy of leadership in space, because the President knows that space exploration is essential to our national security, it’s essential to our nation’s prosperity. But the President and I also understand it is essential to the very character of America.
The work each of you do in the skies and in space supports our armed forces, spurs scientific discovery, drives innovation, helps America’s farmers feed the world, creates the jobs of the future, and fills the rising generation with wonder and pride.
The companies represented here today, and the thousands of American companies that form your supply chains, employ men and women in all 50 states — men and women who helped build the most advanced rockets, spaceships, and satellites in the world.
You know, I’ve seen the importance of this work firsthand, as I’ve traveled across the country on the President’s behalf to meet with the men and women who are forging America’s future in space.
In Huntsville, Alabama, I met the workers who are building the world’s most powerful rocket — NASA’s Space Launch System.
At California’s Mojave Spaceport, I saw the vessel that will carry the first generation of space tourists to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere, and the massive plane that will launch satellites while soaring at high altitudes.
Here in Colorado, at Waterton Canyon, I met the engineers and technicians who are building the Mars Insight Lander and the next generation of GPS satellites.
At the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama and at Colorado’s own Schriever Air Force Base, I spoke with the members of our armed forces who operate the space systems that provide the eyes and ears of America’s warfighters as they defend our freedom across the world.
And in Houston and Cape Canaveral, I met with the men and women of NASA — the permanent symbol of America’s unfailing commitment to space exploration, and an administration that will celebrate its 60th anniversary later this year. And I was most inspired, perhaps, to meet the newest class of astronauts –- men and women who embody the courage and pioneering spirits that have always defined America and continues to spur our people to break old barriers, set new records, and carry our nation to even greater heights.
All across this nation, leaders from every field are advancing American interests in space, and that includes an accomplished leader who’s actually here with us today. An American patriot who has served his country with distinction during his 30-year career at NASA, and his leadership will be missed when he retires at the end of this month. Would you all join me in thanking NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot for his long service to this nation and to its space program. (Applause.)
And we’re hopeful, very soon, that those big shoes will be filled and that the Senate will confirm a man who also joins us here today, a great champion of the men and women at NASA and a great champion of the President’s vision for NASA and for American leadership in space. Would you join me in thanking Congressman Jim Bridenstine for stepping forward to serve our nation at such a time as this. Thank you, Jim. (Applause.)
With our vision of renewed American leadership in space and the action already taken by the National Space Council, the record is clear: Under President Donald Trump, America is leading in space once again. (Applause.)
Last year, after laying dormant for nearly a quarter-century, President Trump relaunched the National Space Council to coordinate our nation’s space activities across the administration, and bring the full force of our national interest to bear to secure American leadership in space. It’s my great honor, as Vice President, to serve as the Council’s Chairman.
And one of the core missions of the National Space Council is to foster the cooperation and sharing of information across the public and private sectors, because President Trump knows that many of the best ideas to secure America’s leadership in space will come from well outside the halls of government.
That’s why we’ve assembled a Users’ Advisory Group that brings together some of the brightest and most accomplished people in America to accelerate innovation across our space enterprise.
In fact, today, we’re pleased to announce that the new chair of the Users’ Advisory Group, and a widely respected leader will be participating in the Space Summit — Space Symposium a little bit later this week, will be former commander of the United States Strategic Command, a 39-year veteran of the United States Navy. Would you join me in thanking Admiral Jim Ellis for stepping forward to lead the Users’ Advisory Group. (Applause.)
You know, as President Trump said the day he revived the National Space Council, “The human soul yearns for discovery.” And at the President’s direction, the National Space Council has been working tirelessly to reorient America’s space program toward human exploration.
In December, the President signed the first set of the National Space Council’s recommendations. Space Policy Directive-1 instructs NASA to send American astronauts back to the moon, where we will establish the capacity, with international and commercial partners, to send Americans to Mars. (Applause.)
In recent months, we’ve also developed regulatory reform proposals designed to transform the licensing regimes that oversee launch, re-entry, and new commercial operations in space — proposals that President Trump will sign in the near future.
Under these reforms, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will continue leading their departments to modernize and streamline outdated regulatory systems so that we can empower America’s burgeoning commercial launch industry and innovative space companies to unlock new opportunities, new technologies, and new sources of prosperity, without the present barriers imposed by cumbersome and duplicative regulatory structures.
And today, we’re pleased to announce that the National Space Council will be sending President Trump a third set of recommendations to address the challenges posed by our increasingly congested space environment.
At this very moment, as many in this room understand, there are tens of thousands of man-made objects orbiting the Earth, including more than 1,500 active satellites and thousands of inactive satellites and spacecraft fragments. And as commercial companies continue to send even more satellites into orbit, the volume of space traffic will only increase in the years ahead.
In low-Earth orbit, objects travel as fast as 4.3 miles per second, which means that collisions can scatter thousands of spacecraft remnants across the orbital environment. We actually saw this in 2009 when an accidental collision between an American satellite and an inactive Russian spacecraft sent nearly 3,000 pieces of debris into orbit, putting at risk our satellites and those of us here on Earth who depend on them.
President Trump knows that a stable and orderly space environment is critical to the strength of our economy and the resilience of our national security systems. And that’s why the National Space Council has developed the first comprehensive space traffic management policy, which we will soon be sending to the President’s desk for his approval. (Applause.)
This new policy directs the Department of Commerce to provide a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use, based on the space catalog compiled by the Department of Defense, so that our military leaders can focus on protecting and defending our national security assets in space.
The policy will also encourage the commercial space industry to partner with the government to develop data-sharing systems, technical guidelines, and safety standards to apply domestically and be promoted internationally that will help minimize debris, avoid satellite collisions during launch and while in orbit.
Under this new policy, we will preserve the integrity of our critical space assets and foster an orbital environment where America’s space companies can propel our nation to new heights and greatness for generations to come.
In addition to the efforts of the National Space Council, last month President Trump announced a new National Space Strategy, which you may have read about. And it calls for a unified and coordinated approach within the government and alongside commercial and international partners to ensure that the United States retains our rightful role as the world’s leading spacefaring nation.
To meet the security challenges in space, President Trump has also recognized that, in his words, “space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.” And to deter and defeat the threats posed by Russia and China’s aggressive pursuit of anti-satellite capabilities, our President directed the Department of Defense to strengthen the resilience of our nation’s space systems so America remains as dominant in space for security as we are here on Earth. (Applause.)
And finally, just a few weeks ago, the President signed into law nearly $21 billion for NASA over Fiscal Year 2018 that focuses on human space exploration, and paves the way for a growing commercial presence in low-Earth orbit.
As President Trump has said, we are, in his words, “a nation of pioneers.” And as these actions I trust make clear, under this administration, we are proudly carrying on the American tradition of exploration and discovery into the infinite frontier of space.
But for all that we’ve accomplished, I’m here to tell you that the most important work and the greatest triumphs for America’s space enterprise we know still lie ahead.
Today, we stand at the dawn of a new era of human activity in space; a turning point that will bring new opportunities and new challenges.
For the past 45 years, since the last Apollo astronauts lifted off from the moon’s surface, we’ve made extraordinary progress in learning how to survive and thrive in space.
We’ve learned about the effects of microgravity on the human body, allowing our astronauts to travel further than ever before.
We’ve assembled the world’s largest constellation of satellites that gives our nation a strategic advantage in the way we communicate, travel, farm, trade, and of course, defend our nation and our allies.
We’ve strengthened our international partnerships. We’ve forged scientific and medical breakthroughs and pioneered new technologies, including life-support systems and in-space manufacturing that continue to redefine what we can do and how far we can go in space.
And we’ve witnessed the meteoric rise of America’s commercial space sector, as entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators build new businesses and entire industries from satellite servicing and asteroid mining to space tourism and cargo delivery.
But low-Earth orbit is merely the gateway and training ground for the infinite frontier of space. And after we spent nearly half-a-century learning how to live and work in space, President Donald Trump believes the time has come, once again, to push onward and upward to new horizons and new destinations in the outer reaches of space. (Applause.)
You know, from the earliest days of our nation, the United States government and the American people have played a unique role in blazing new trails into uncharted territory. From the $2,500 that Congress appropriated to finance Lewis and Clark’s expedition into the wilderness — an expedition that actually began in the state of Indiana — (laughter and applause) — to the land grants and Homestead Act that fueled America’s western expansion, to the investments that created and sustained NASA at the dawn of the space age — the tradition of public support for exploration, I can assure you, continues under this administration.
The budget that President Trump signed into law last month reflects our administration’s confidence that NASA will lead the nation as we embark on new journeys to far-off places. And with the help of groundbreaking technologies advanced by America’s private enterprise, we know we will go faster and at a lower cost to taxpayer than ever before.
Under the President’s leadership, NASA will lead the way back to the moon, starting with the construction of a Lunar Orbital Platform — the Gateway — which will provide a scientific outpost, supply center, and eventually a fuel depot, and will give our nation a strategic presence in the lunar domain.
From this orbiting platform, and with our international and commercial partners, American astronauts will return to the moon to explore its surface and learn how to harness its resources to launch expeditions to Mars.
And as we push human exploration deeper into space, we will unleash the boundless potential of America’s pioneering commercial space companies in low-Earth orbit, beginning with the largest orbiting laboratory in history, the International Space Station.
You know, when the space station program was first established, no one foresaw the extraordinary advances in space technology and commerce that we all take for granted today. And the skyrocketing demand for affordable access to space has already transformed the promise of low-Earth orbit beyond our wildest dreams from 30 years ago, proving that the old government-run operating model won’t last forever, and it won’t have to.
That’s why, with the direct government funding deadline for the International Space Station just seven years away, our administration is investing in the science and technology capabilities that commercial space companies will use to build the orbital platforms of the future –- where the government will be a tenant and a customer, and not the landlord.
As President Trump has said, “It is America’s destiny to be…the leader among nations on our adventure into the great unknown.” And we’re going to write the next chapter of that adventure with American industry and with American ingenuity in a full partnership with the American people. (Applause.)
Now, the task before us will not be easy. It will involve hardship and hazard, and it will require sacrifice and determination. But as we prepare to mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing next year, we do well to pause to remember the giants on whose shoulders we stand and draw renewed inspiration from their courage and their example.
Heroes like Alan Shepard and John Glenn who led a generation of pioneers into the void as the first Americans in space and in orbit. Or Ed White, the first American to leave behind the safety of his spacecraft and venture into the emptiness of space. Or Gene Cernan, who survived a grueling two-hour spacewalk — after losing upwards of 10 pounds in sweat -– through sheer grit. Or, of course, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, whose fearless first steps on the face of the Moon proved that America can, and will again, accomplish anything we set our minds to. (Applause.)
These were remarkable Americans. And they chose to do something extraordinary in their time –- and so must we.
It would be easier and, some may conclude, safer just to stay put, let someone else go. But like all of you here, those who went before chose to lead in space, not just to propel our economy and ensure our national security, but above all because they knew that the rules and the values of space –- like every great frontier –- will be written by those who have the courage to get there first and the commitment to stay.
And today, President Trump and our entire administration believe it is our duty to ensure that our most cherished values and ideals are at the foundation of the future of the boundless expanse of space. (Applause.)
So let’s do as Americans have done throughout our history. With the courage to dream bigger, the determination to work harder, the confidence to push farther than the trailblazers who showed us the way, let’s go meet the future that awaits.
And as we renew our commitment to lead, let’s go with confidence and let’s go with faith –- the faith that we do not go alone. For as millions of Americans have believed throughout the long and storied history of this nation of pioneers, I believe, as well, there is nowhere we can go from His spirit; that if we rise on the wings of the dawn, settle on the far side of the sea, even if we go up to the heavens, even there His hand will guide us, and His right hand will hold us fast.
It’s an honor to be with you today. I leave here today with renewed confidence that with your support, with the efforts of the National Space Council, with the hard work of all who labor across the nation to forge America’s future in space, with the strong leadership of President Donald Trump, the courage of a new generation of explorers, and with God’s help, I know America will once again astonish the world with the heights that we reach and the wonders we achieve, and we will lead the world into space once again.
Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
12:46 P.M. MDT