5 things to know about Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Huntsville

1. Why is Pence coming?

The Vice President travels to Huntsville for a meeting of the National Space Council at the US Space and Rocket Center. The center is home to a Saturn V rocket and the city hosts the Saturn V program that propelled the last US visits to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s. The Space Board advises the White House to achieve current goals of the nation in space and generally meets in places important to the American space history. Pence chairs the council.

2. Can the public see Pence or the NSC meeting?

The meeting of the National Council of Space is closed to the general public, but there will be a public of local guests. The meeting will also be broadcast live on NASA TV beginning at midday. Pence has no public appearances on his schedule, but he is scheduled to visit Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp while he is on the site. Huntsville police also indicated that traffic would be intermittently blocked on sections of I-565 Tuesday from approximately 10:00 am to 11:00 am and again from 3:00 pm to 3:00 pm

3. About the meeting of the National Council of Space?

Information published in the space press suggests that the vice president could use the meeting to invite NASA to send astronauts back to the moon in 2024. If so, the question is how long? A flight around the moon and on Earth is one thing. It's still Phase 2 of NASA's plans to return to the moon after a first flight with an unprepared rocket. But returning to a moon station in orbit or landing on the lunar surface would be a major effort for the space agency.

4. What should we look for?

The specific challenge of the vice president, if he publishes one, is the essential. But Pence would also be unhappy with NASA's pace of development of the space launch system at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told Congress on March 13 that the space agency could hand over the first lunar flight to commercial rocket companies instead of waiting for the launch of SLS. This surprise electrified the space community, enthused fans of "new space companies" like SpaceX and angered NASA supporters. Everyone will listen to Pence's comments in Huntsville to understand how the administration is unhappy with the US space program.

5. How many vice presidents visited Huntsville?

The last vice president to visit was Pence himself. He came in 2017 to visit NASA's Marshall Center before speaking at an election rally for Sen. Luther Strange in Birmingham. Pence took a selfie with the Marshall workers who caused a brief sensation on the Internet. He was preceded in Huntsville by Dan Quayle in 2009 and Dick Cheney in 2008. Seven presidents: Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush and Donald Trump – all visited Huntsville while he was President. George W. Bush has visited the city twice during his presidency.

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