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Mike Pence declares U.S. astronauts will return to the moon within 5 years

Pence says Space Force to launch this year

The U.S. is sending astronauts back to the moon within the next five years, Vice President Mike Pence says. Pence, who has championed President Trump's Space Force, made the announcement Tuesday morning at a National Space Council meeting in Alabama. 

"The first woman and the next man on the moon will both be American astronauts launched from rockets from American soil," Pence said at the meeting. 

Pence's announcement comes after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced it had to scrap its first all-female spacewalk because it didn't have well-fitting space suits for its female astronauts.

The announcement also comes the same week Mr. Trump announced he will nominate Gen. John Raymond to be the first-ever commander of the U.S. Space Command, a new combatant command. Raymond is currently the Air Force's top space official, a position he will also keep. 

In 2004, President George W. Bush pledged the U.S. would send people back to the moon by 2020. That deadline, of course, was far past Bush's ability to control, and the U.S. isn't on track to make it. NASA recently has been shooting for another moon landing by 2028. 

No astronauts have stepped foot on the moon since December 1972. 

Mr. Trump has emphasized his administration will make space travel great again, perhaps most notably with his push for a Space Force. 

The president has also pushed for more NASA funding. His $21 billion 2020 budget request for NASA included funding for taking astronauts back to the moon. 

Editor's note: A previous version of this article said Gen. John Raymond has been nominated to be the head of the Space Force. He has been nominated to be the head of the U.S. Space Command. 

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