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Pence cracks Twitter jokes after touching NASA hardware labeled "do not touch"

Pence on space program
Pence vows "new era of space leadership" 01:12

Vice President Mike Pence showcased his self-deprecating sense of humor Friday after a photo emerged of him late Thursday touching a piece of hardware clearly labeled "critical space flight hardware, do not touch" at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Pence was visiting the facility with Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio Thursday, when he stretched out his hand to touch the "critical" hardware. After the photo went viral on Twitter, the vice president joked Rubio made him do it, then posted a photoshopped picture of him reaching out for a porcupine. 

Rubio cracked his own joke on Twitter, too.

But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said there's no need to worry. "We were going to clean it anyway," the space agency explained in a tweet. 

The hardware Pence touched is a "titanium forward bay cover" for NASA's Orion spacecraft, according to a statement from NASA. The hardware has to be cleaned before tiles can be bonded to the spacecraft, the space agency explained, so touching it is "absolutely" OK. The Orion spacecraft is being prepared for its first integrated flight with the Space Launch System in 2019, according to NASA.  

VP Mike Pence welcomes new NASA astronauts 00:57

Pence, chairman of the recently re-established National Space Council, visited the Kennedy Space Center to give remarks to employees there and vow a "new era of space leadership" led by President Trump's administration. Pence vowed to make the space program great again

"For nearly 25 years, our government's commitment seems to have not matched the spirit of the American people," he said. "But I'm here to tell you, that as we still enter this new century, we will beat back any disadvantage that our lack of attention has placed, and American will once again lead in space for the benefit and security of all of our people and all of the world."

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