US Eager To Build Moon Base Amid Space Race With China, Russia

The U.S. seems rushing the process of returning astronauts to the surface of the Moon. Vice President Mike Pence has announced that the previously planned 2028 lunar touchdown has been rescheduled for an earlier launch in 2024. 

"That's just not good enough. We're better than that,” Pence said during the recent meeting of the National Space Council (NSC) at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. "Urgency must be our watchword."

The big change comes amid the U.S. government’s desire to remain ahead of China and Russia in the ongoing race to dominate space, reported Tuesday.

"The United States must remain first in space in this century as in the last, not just to propel our economy and secure our nation but, above all, because the rules and 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," Pence said. 

He added part of the plans of the U.S. to lead the space race is establishing a permanent base on the lunar surface, which would enable American astronauts to travel Mars and beyond.

The NSC is considering the Moon's south pole to house the lunar base. The area harbors water ice on craters that astronauts could use in future operations. The council is preparing to propose the plan to NASA, Pence said. 

The 2024 Moon Mission

The vice president acknowledged that it was an aggressive move to target 2024 for the next human mission to the Moon. However, he noted such a goal is achievable, citing the successful Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969 that occurred just 12 years after the dawn of the space age.

Pence said the government intends to leverage commercial space vehicles to help NASA in the mission. The space agency will also build a Moon-orbiting space station, called the Gateway, to support manned missions on the lunar surface. 

The lunar mission comes as part of President Donald Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1 that requires the space agency to explore the Moon for future deep space journeys.