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The americans will return to the moon by 2024 — with or without NASA, says Pence

Vice-President Mike Pence at the fifth National Space Council calls for landing astronauts on the moon within five years. (Associated Press)

Vice-President Mike Pence on Tuesday called the NASA her game and land astronauts on the moon within five years, “by any means necessary.”

“It is time to redouble our effort,” Pence said during a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Ala. “It can happen, but it will not happen unless we increase the pace.”

Pence warned that if NASA can’t astronauts on the moon by 2024, “we need to change the organization, not the mission.” He warned that the space agency needed to transform into a more efficient organization, or would otherwise be replaced by the private sector.

“We are not tied to one contractor. If our current contractors are not able to meet this objective, then we find that. If the U.s. industry can make a critical commercial services without government development than we buy them. And if commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the moon in the next five years, commercial rockets will be,” Pence said.

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine insured Pence that NASA would work hard to meet the deadline, the expression of the confidence that the SLS, or Space Launch System, is ready for the job.

Planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, said 2024 is feasible, provided that the accelerated effort is well funded and commercial space systems are fully embraced.

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But outside experts are skeptical that the goal can be achieved. Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said that he was “surprised” when it is pulled off, it can be noted that a lunar lander still needs to be designed, built, and tested.

Former NASA official Scott Hubbard pointed out that both Bush administrations proposed similar significant exploration efforts that “not everywhere, and collapsed of their own significant financial weight.”

Vice-President Mike Pence, left, speaking with museum docents at the National Space meeting of the Council held at the us Space and Rocket Center. (Associated Press)

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Since Apollo 17 astronauts last walked on the moon in 1972, no country has sent humans back to the lunar surface.

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The National Space Council, led by Pence, held its fifth meeting in the U. S. Space and Rocket Center, right next door to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where the Boeing-built SLS is now managed.

Aldrin, now 89 years old, was among the attendees and tweeted a photo of the meeting. (Armstrong died in 2012 at age 82. The third Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, is now 88 years old.)

Pence said that it was unacceptable that the SLS delays and cost overruns point to a 2028 target date — almost two decades after the SLS program began. On the other hand took NASA only eight years, astronauts on the moon in July 1969.

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“The discovery of heaven in this new century will go forward with or without the United States. But the Americans are not on the second place. The americans lead, and so we will,” Pence said to cheers and applause.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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