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US Vice President Mike Pence Unveils Artemis 1 Lunar Mission Spacecraft

21 July 2019

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Apollo 11 crew member Buzz Aldrin on July 19, 2019, at the White House in Washington, DC, during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.

The golden anniversary is being celebrated at events across the US.

"Looking back, landing on the moon wasn't just our job, it was a historic opportunity to prove to the world America's can-do spirit", Aldrin, 89, tweeted. Before going to the Operations and Checkout Building, the Vice President, Aldrin and Armstrong visited Kennedy's historic launch pad, 39A, where the Apollo 11 mission lifted off.

The new mission, scheduled for 2024, is itself designed as a springboard for a subsequent crewed spaceship to be sent to Mars for the first time.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on moon.

NASA has been in overdrive for several weeks to mark the anniversary, with exhibits and events nationwide but most notably at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Artemis 1 will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket around the Moon to test the system and pave the way for landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon in five years, as well as future missions to Mars.

Experts doubt that the space agency can meet its current goals on time.

During a speech, Pence announced the completion of NASA's Orion crew capsule for the first Artemis lunar mission.

In a statement, Lockheed Martin said the two modules were stacked together earlier in the week in a test cell once used to prepare Apollo spacecraft.

"The challenge is, if we go direct to Mars, there's going to be a lot of things that we haven't yet proven out", Bridenstine answered, adding that setting up a base on the moon and a moon-orbiting space station would be a more foolproof approach. Through Artemis, the agency will establish a sustainable human presence at the Moon by 2028 to continue scientific research and discovery, demonstrate new technologies, and lay the foundation for future missions to Mars. Collins, meanwhile, restated that he'd rather see the US bypass its current moon plans in favor of a "Mars direct" program to set foot on the red planet sooner rather than later. Artemis 2 will be the first of these new missions to the Moon with astronauts on board, followed by Artemis 3, which will launch the next American moonwalkers into a new era of exploration. "I'll be walking along down my street at night, when it's starting to get dark, and I sense something over my right shoulder - and I look up and see that little silver sliver up there and think, 'Oh, that's the moon!"

"Tomorrow will represent 50 years from the time we planted a handsome American flag on the moon", Trump said.

Both presidents George HW Bush and his son George W Bush made similar promises but financial constraints stopped their vision from being realized.

US Vice President Mike Pence Unveils Artemis 1 Lunar Mission Spacecraft