U.S. Vice President Mike Pence spoke with three NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station during his visit to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on Monday (Sept. 25).
Pence asked NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik, the space station's current commander, and Mark Vande Hei and Joseph Acaba, who both arrived two weeks ago, about what it's like to be in space. He also queried the astronauts on their best advice for kids who dream of spaceflight and how their work in orbit advances U.S. leadership in space.
"The president and I, and every American, sees each one of you as true trailblazers in a great American tradition," Pence told the space station astronauts. "You may not be aware, but the president asked me to chair a restart of the National Space Council, and I want to assure each one of you that the National Space Council [is] looking to build on the historic work that you're building on today. [See More Photos of Pence's Visit to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center]
"We're just really honored to speak to three courageous Americans who are such an essential part of NASA's mission today," Pence added. The National Space Council is set to meet for the first time in a few weeks, he said, adding that the council will work to put the United States at the forefront of space exploration.
During his trip to Marshall, Pence visited the facility where engineers are working on engines for the Space Launch System (SLS), a megarocket that will be powerful enough to send humans beyond low-Earth orbit, where the space station circles, to the moon and Mars. He also stopped at the Payload Operations Integration Center, which manages the research on the space station.
"Today, I met pioneers who are helping America travel into the unknown and expand our knowledge for the benefit of the nation," Pence said in a statement. "I'm inspired by the people at Marshall, and NASA as a whole, who are passionate and dedicated to space exploration. The massive hardware and innovative technologies we are building will propel us far beyond our home planet and allow America to lead in space again."
Pence also visited the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, where Army leaders briefed him on missile defense projects, according to the statement.
"The work underway today at Marshall, supporting station science and with the SLS, is integral to ensuring this nation's incredible global leadership in human exploration," Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said in the statement. "Vice President Pence now has personally visited three NASA centers in the last four months, and I deeply appreciate the vice president's strong commitment to our space-exploration mission."