Vice President Mike Pence calls for reform to space industry, praises commercial success

Re-established National Space Council meets at Kennedy Space Center for first ti

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – In Vice President Mike Pence's second trip to the Kennedy Space Center as second-in-command, a lot of the two-hour meeting of the National Space Council concentrated around deregulating the space industry for what the White House calls "American leadership in the 21st century."

As the Kennedy Space Center has modernized into a commercial spaceport, the vice president says regulations space companies face have not.

"There's no reason our own federal government should stand in the way of trailblazing companies that are forging and reforging American leadership in space,"Pence said. "As this National Space Council has already come to understand, American businesses that want to launch are often stifled," Pence continued. "If a company receives its licenses to launch a rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, but then wants to move their mission, the same company must complete the entire process all over again. The government's figured out how to honor driver's licences from across state lines. There's no reason we can't do the same for rockets," Pence said, receiving applause from 300 guests inside the Space Center's Processing Facility.

Space industry leaders speaking to the National Space Council's group of cabinet members Wednesday suggested updating decades-old regulations based on technology when rockets were expendable.

SpaceX is revolutionizing that.

The vice president praised Elon Musk's company as a pinnacle of commercial success.

"The world watched with wonder as the Falcon Heavy blasted off from this very shoreline and moments later, sent two of its boosters sailing back down to Earth where they landed side by side," the vice president said of the Falcon Heavy's maiden flight Feb. 6.

Suggested regulatory reforms will try to make spaceflight cheaper.

The Trump administration says that will attract more commercial companies from around the world.

"The world has seen the vital role that private enterpise plays in advancing American leadership," Pence said.

"The goals of this campaign are to transition the U.S. human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit to commercial operations which supports NASA and the emerging needs of the private-sector market," acting NASA Administrator and National Space Council member Robert Lightfoot added.

Privatization is the president's plan for the International Space Station.

Also in the 2020s, the administration wants to put American boots back on the moon, this time establishing a long-term presence.

The boldest vision of all is going to Mars.

"The work will continue and America is leading in space again thanks to all of you," Pence told the crowd as he concluded the meeting.

The Space Council first met in October near Washington, D.C.

Policy suggestions Wednesday will be brought back to Washington and presented to the president who must approve recommendations.

Any changes would then have to be funded by Congress.

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