Vice President Mike Pence gives NASA new deadline for moon to Mars mission

NASA has less than two months to submit a plan for sustainable lunar surface exploration and the development of crewed missions to Mars.

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This new deadline comes after the National Space Council met Tuesday, and at the request of Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the council.

Tuesday's meeting was focused squarely on NASA's moon to Mars directive.

"Our moon to Mars mission is on track and America is leading in human space exploration again. Don't you doubt it," Pence said.

NASA's administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed during the meeting the agency is still on target for a 2024 moon landing.

"We want to use the resources that taxpayers give to us to go to the moon, sustainably, with commercial and international partners," Bridenstine said.

Pence said Space Launch System, NASA's powerful new rocket intended to pair with the Orion spacecraft to send astronauts to lunar orbit, should be fully assembled before the end of the year.

"A large part of that moon mission will include a lunar outpost known as the Gateway," Bridenstine said. "On that Gateway, we're moving as fast as we can rapid acquisition of a Mini-hab, just a small habitation module, that's not the long-term solution but that will get our astronauts from the Orion into a lander and land on the surface of the moon."

The administration has said NASA must have a sustainable presence.

The vice president spoke of an eventual multi-month expedition to the south pole of the moon.

NASA has its 2024 directive, and soon there will be another space deadline of a different sort.

"Soon, Congress will approve, and the president will sign the sixth branch of the armed forces of the United States: The United States Space Force," Pence said.

There was also conversation about the type of technology necessary for deep space exploration. Specifically, nuclear power sources in space.

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