06:11 GMT +314 December 2019
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    United States Vice President Mike Pence delivers his speech during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019

    Pence Calls for Americans to Return to Moon Within 5 Years 'By Any Means'

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The US National Space Council (NSC) recommends pushing NASA to land humans on the south pole of the moon four years earlier than planned, Vice President Mike Pence said in remarks on Tuesday.

    "Today, the National Space Council will send recommendations to the president that will launch a major course correction for NASA and re-ignite that spark of urgency that propelled America to the vanguard of space exploration 50 years ago", Pence said. "If NASA is not currently capable of landing American astronauts on the moon in five years, we need to change the organization, not the mission".

    Pence told fellow members of the Space Council at a NASA facility in the state of Alabama that NASA needs to transform itself into a leaner, more accountable organization that is capable of meeting deadlines within existing budgets.

    "To reach the moon in the next five years, we must select our destinations now", Pence said. "And today the National Space Council will recommend that when the first American astronauts return to the lunar surface that they will take their first steps on the moon’s south pole".

    READ MORE: Russia's First Manned Lunar Mission Expected to Land on Moon in 2031

    Pence, who chairs the council, also urged NASA to build new partnerships with America’s private space companies and entrepreneurs, adding that "we're in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s".

    NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in turn on Twitter, "Challenge accepted".

    Earlier this month, NASA set 2028 as the target for humans to return to the moon — four years later than the deadline cited by Pence.

    Over 500 million people worldwide reportedly watched the touchdown of the Apollo 11 spacecraft on 20 July 1969 on the moon. US astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, was the spacecraft’s commander. Armstrong and his fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin spent some three hours walking on the lunar surface, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs.

    The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned mission to land on the moon. More than a hundred countries received lunar rocks from NASA after lunar missions in the 1970s.

    READ MORE: NASA Heavy Rocket May Not Get Off the Ground in Time for Moon Mission — Director

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    space, NASA, Mike Pence, United States, Moon
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