Vice President Mike Pence Opened the International Astronautics Congress In Washington, D.C. This Week

Vice President Mike Pence Opened the International Astronautics Congress In Washington, D.C. This Week

     A few days ago, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence spoke during the opening session of the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Washington, D.C. Pence is the chairman of the White House’s National Space Council. More than six thousand people registered for the event and many of them had to stand in line for security checks to get into the opening ceremony. 
     During his speech, Pence talked about the Trump administration’s plans to send astronauts back to the Moon and promote space commerce in the present. He also spoke about private property rights with respect to space resources. Pence emphasized the need for international space cooperation in his official welcome address to the IAC.
     The main focus of Pence’s presentation was the NASA Artemis program to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. After that, NASA will be looking at Mars for future missions. Pence said, “We are well on our way to making NASA’s ‘moon to Mars’ mission a reality.”
     Pence specifically praised astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir who just took the first all-female spacewalk last week from the International Space Station. He also praised Japan’s decision to join the NASA Artemis Moon program. He mentioned that European nations were also interested in the Artemis program and were discussing their participation. He said, “To be clear, our vision is to be the leader amongst freedom-loving nations on the adventure into the great unknown.”
    Pence made a point of saying that the U.S. would continue to observe the terms of international agreements on space activities. This was presumed to refer to the Outer Space Treaty (OST). The OST states explicitly that no one can make a claim of sovereignty on the Moon or other celestial bodies. Pence went on to say that partners of the U.S. in the exploration and exploitation of space should respect private ownership in space. The issue of private party ownership rights in space is far from settled in space law.
     Pence said, “As more nations gain the ability to explore space and develop places beyond Earth’s atmosphere, we must also ensure that we carry into space our shared commitment to freedom, the rule of law and private property. The long-term exploration and development of the moon, Mars and other celestial bodies will require the use of resources found in outer space, including water and minerals. And so we must encourage the responsible commercial use of these resources.”
     Pence hinted that the U.S. is in the process of developing new policies with respect to the use of space resources. He said, “We will use all available legal and diplomatic means to create a stable and orderly space environment that drives opportunity, creates prosperity and ensures our security on Earth into the vast expanse of space.”
     Speaking about security, Pence mentioned the Trump administration’s work to create a Space Fouce. This would be the sixth branch of the U.S. armed forces. He said, “Soon it will be a reality, and the Space Force will be a vanguard to defending our nation, defending our freedom, and defending the rights of all freedom-loving nations in the vast expanse of space.”
     Commercial firms are focusing increased attention on space resources. This includes potentially valuable metals and minerals. It also refers to water on the Moon and asteroids that could be converted to drinking water for astronauts or broken down to create fuel for spacecraft.
     Blue Origin is one of the companies that is receiving NASA funding in order to develop technologies for processing space resources. Jeff Bezos picked up an Excellence in Industry Award for Blue Origin at the IAC meeting. The crew of Apollo 11 were the recipients of and IAC World Space Award.