Mike Pence promised Americans the moon during a meeting of the National Space Council on Tuesday. The vice president said the current NASA plan to have US astronauts on the moon by 2028 was "just not good enough" and vowed that Americans would get to the moon by the end of 2024 by "any means necessary," CNN reports. Pence blamed "bureaucratic inertia" for delays to the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule currently in development and said he was challenging everybody involved in America's space program to "think bigger, fail smarter, and work harder than ever before." He promised that American astronauts would land near the lunar south pole.
Pence told the meeting that the US was in a "space race" against China and other countries, but added: "It's not just competition against our adversaries. We're also racing against our worst enemy—complacency." The New York Times reports the administration's NASA budget requests do not reflect the "greater urgency" Pence spoke of, though the vice president said the agency should have the "courage" to use commercial platforms if they are cheaper. "If commercial rockets are the only way to get American astronauts to the moon in the next five years, then commercial rockets it will be," Pence said, per Politico. (The head of Russia's space agency joked last year that a Russian mission would verify that the US landed there 50 years ago.)