News

VP Mike Pence tours NASA Ames, talks space exploration and mass shootings

Demonstrators converge outside Ames to protest Pence's views on women's and LGBT rights

Vice President Mike Pence touted big plans for an American-led lunar landing by 2024 during a Thursday appearance at the NASA Ames Research Center, where he lauded the ingenuity of local engineers and researchers behind the effort.

Speaking to more than 100 NASA employees on Nov. 14, Pence heaped praise on current and former Ames staff that have championed modern aviation, space exploration and cutting-edge computing for 80 years. With renewed goals to conduct manned missions to the moon and a long-term goal of reaching Mars in the coming decades, Pence said NASA Ames will again be the center of innovation.

"We're about to make even more history, and it will pass right through NASA Ames," Pence said.

Casting a shadow over the visit, however, was recent news of a mass shooting at a Southern California school earlier that morning. A boy a male student shot and killed two students, a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, and injured three others at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita. Pence led his planned remarks by extending condolences to the families affected, and said President Donald Trump asked him to convey his deepest sympathies for the families and the victims and the entire Santa Clarita community.

"The hearts of every American are with you today, our prayers are with you, and our prayers are with all the doctors and nurses and hospital staff," he said.

Pence commended the swift response of local law enforcement and school officials who "undoubtedly saved lives." The Trump administration, he said, will fight to prevent future mass shootings, but did not specify how.

"This president and this administration will remain resolved to bring the scourge of mass shootings to an end. And we will not rest or relent until we end this evil in our time and make our schools and communities safe again."

Trump floated the idea of supporting more aggressive background checks and "red flag" laws in the summer, but recent media reports indicate proposed gun-control legislation has not been a priority for the president.

Pence addressed NASA employees in front of the research center's Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS), a one-of-a-kind facility that can prepare astronauts to land on lunar – and eventually martian – surfaces. The VMS acts as a sort of flight simulator designed to mirror the feel, the controls and the visual cues needed to pilot a lander in an environment unlike Earth.

Though the VMS is primarily for refining the design of aircraft and spacecrafts, it also serves a valuable secondary role as a training simulator for pilots.

Pence's comments largely centered on the administration's renewed focus on manned missions to the moon. In 2017, Trump signed a directive prioritizing missions that will put the first woman, and the next man, on the moon. The directive also places a focus on "long-term exploration and utilization" ultimately culminating in a manned mission to Mars. At the time, Pence announced that he would be heading the National Space Council and act as a link between NASA and the White House.

Though the initial target was to have astronauts land on the moon in 2028, Pence announced during a National Space Council meeting last March that the new, accelerated timeline now calls for a touchdown by 2024. If reached, it would be the first time the United States has conducted a lunar landing in 52 years.

Pence told NASA employees on Thursday that things are already moving fast: In just a matter of months, strong efforts have been made to get America "back" in the business of launching its own spacecrafts, which he described as a languishing priority for the country.

"Before spring arrives next year, we're going to send American astronauts on American rockets from American soil," he said, adding that NASA would no longer have to hitch a ride with the Russians on the return trip.

Pence's visit to Moffett Field was the last leg of a two-day trip to California, which began with two events in support of Trump. He participated in a "Trump Victory" lunch in Huntington Beach Wednesday followed by a reception in Monterey. Both events were closed to the media.

In past comments to the media and on Twitter, Trump has signaled that he is eager to send astronauts to Mars and vented in June that the first leg of the mission – returning to the moon – wasn't breaking any new ground. A crewed flight to Mars is loosely planned to happen sometime in the 2030s.

Protesters stage die-in

While NASA employees at the event largely supported Pence's comments, often punctuated with cheering and applause, not everyone was thrilled with the vice president's visit. Several groups staged demonstrations outside of the research facility.

The protests included a presence from the groups Vigil for Democracy, calling out the vice president's opposition to abortion and LGBT rights, Resistance SF and Refuse Fascism Bay Area. The local chapter of the Raging Grannies traded their usual colorful garb for somber black and acted as mourners at a "die-in" of protesters dressed in white clothing stained with fake blood on their crotches, representing victims of back-alley abortions.

"They want to send women back into the Dark Ages," said Vara Ramakrishnan of Los Altos, a member of the group Vigil for Democracy, adding that Pence's record on women's and LGBT issues as governor of Indiana "speaks volumes."

The protesters referred to a bill signed by Pence while he was governor of Indiana requiring women to hold burial services for fetuses.

Nancy Martin of Palo Alto, a member of Raging Grannies, said that as a pro-choice advocate and Planned Parenthood volunteer, she opposed Pence's visit to the Bay Area.

"I'm here in solidarity with women, and also trans women, who are endangered by the sexist policies of Pence and Trump," said Alan Marling, a protester participating in the "die-in".

The "die-in" protesters lay down in crosswalks around Ames' main entrance, and marched across Moffett Boulevard with linked arms, followed by "Handmaids" dressed in red capes and white bonnets, followed by the Raging Grannies. The groups say they wanted to draw attention to the vice president's "misogyny and homophobia," and quoted comments made by Pence in opposition to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, and his belief that homosexuality is a choice.

A group of eight protesters made it about one block onto the NASA Ames campus before security and police escorted them out.

Future space missions

Plans for a crewed landing on the moon has been dubbed the Artemis program, an American-led effort that has picked up support from several international partners since it was first announced. NASA is joined by the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency and the Australian Space Agency.

Pence also emphasized the importance of "unleashing" the private sector and fostering strong public-private partnerships – something Ames employees have been quick to embrace.

The program includes several ambitious and expensive components, notably the Lunar Orbital Platform (better known as the Lunar Gateway), a space station that would orbit around the moon and act as a "jumping-off" point for robots and astronauts to land on the moon's surface.

In the near term, NASA officials announced last month that it is developing a robot rover that could be sent to the moon to observe and sample frozen water concentrated at the south pole. The rover is equipped with a meter-long drill to take samples, which will assist researchers in creating a global map of resources on the moon that could be essential for lengthy stays on the lunar surface.

Throughout the address, Pence repeatedly described Trump's commitment to NASA as unwavering, noting that Trump signed into law the "largest budget ever" for the agency in the modern era. The administration also asked Congress to approve adding $1.6 billion to the budget, bringing the total planned spending to over $22.6 billion in fiscal year 2020.

And while much of the technology and equipment needed to carry out the Artemis program remains under development and almost like science fiction, Pence said the research center has a reputation of overcoming the odds.

"You made science fiction into science fact at NASA Ames, and you made history," he said.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Pensive
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 18, 2019 at 9:19 am

Pence sure high-tailed out of DC as the hearings progressed!Turns out Pence was there during the bribing of Ukraine, all along.

Smart guy though. Politicians learned a long time ago that Moon Landings have always been a good safe topic for news.


7 people like this
Posted by isaidso
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 18, 2019 at 2:51 pm

and of course the Almanac posts all the negative activist photos. Can you ever be a little positive for the other side?


22 people like this
Posted by Can't Handle the Truth
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2019 at 3:52 pm

"[A]nd of course the Almanac posts all the negative activist photos. Can you ever be a little positive for the other side?"

Sorry sport, The Almanac ain't Breitbart.

Try again.


4 people like this
Posted by West Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 19, 2019 at 11:56 am

No, the Almanac is turning out to be a bit more like Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews or the New York Times. Figures a Palo Alto publication would lean that way
And, by the way, no so-called witness has, as of yet, alleged there was any bribery whatsoever, let alone any other crime.


16 people like this
Posted by Pensive
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:06 pm

> by the way, no so-called witness has, as of yet, alleged there was any bribery whatsoever, let alone any other crime.

They are 'fact' witnesses. They are testifying to the facts.

Trump's extortion and bribery of Ukraine is obvious for anyone reading/watching the presentation of facts. Note that republicans are not challenging the facts presented. Instead, they engage in either character assassination (trump via tweet) or rambling conspiracy theories (Nunes, etc..)

---

"Testifying as Either a Fact Witness or Expert Witness
A fact witness is called upon only to verify facts pertinent to the case. ... In contrast, expert witnesses are authorized to give their opinion about the case while testifying."

Example: a witness to a car crash testifies to the facts of the crash that they witnessed. They do not testify as to whether it is a case of vehicular manslaughter.


10 people like this
Posted by Can't Handle the Truth
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2019 at 4:57 pm

@Pensive -- You have to cut the -45 cultist some slack. AFter all, when Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson et. al. tell people like West Menlo that their cut leader is absolutely blameless, they don't bother to find out if that is actually the case.

Facts, after all, are such stubborn things.


2 people like this
Posted by Tacq
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 19, 2019 at 6:38 pm

And fox won't talk about this afternoon's GOP testimony other than play an edited clip or two.

It's a bad week for the short fingered orange hairball. Wait till Sondheim gets up and recants.

uh-oh.....

We're going to war, soon.


14 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 19, 2019 at 7:04 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"a witness to a car crash testifies to the facts of the crash that they witnessed. "

What an apt comparison, except it's more like a slow motion train wreck that started in 2016.


8 people like this
Posted by Pensive
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 20, 2019 at 10:06 am

A bad day for Pence as Ambassador Sondland (million dollar contributor for purchase of ambassadorship) implicates Pence, Mulvany, Pompeo, Guilliani, Rick Perry, etc.. in the Trump extortion of Ukraine.

The rats will now proceed in an orderly fashion in abandoning ship, after turning upon each other.

All Trump apologists in these blogs may now be excused and thank their stars that it's an anonymous comment section.

Pence will claim he only "winked".

“Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink”


3 people like this
Posted by West Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:18 pm

@Menlo Voter et al: and yet you believe the person (Schift) who for two years claimed to have incontrovertible proof about Trump/Russia——that never materialized. As did Maddow, the New York Times and their ilk. NEVER MATERIALIZED and turned out to be nothing. Just like this. Want to see bribery—just look at Biden and his actions. The Pres. of Ukraine was aware of no quid pro quo. Schiff has wanted to impeach Trump from the day he was elected. Be careful what you ask for, because this sets up a great precedent for the next Democrat elected. The Republicans would have a field day with Warren and Sanders.


8 people like this
Posted by Pensive
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Nice deflection from the evidence represented this week. You hit the trifecta of false Fox fables to be used to deflect from Trump's extortion in an attempt to cheat in the 2020 election.

1. Attack Schiff, attack the media.
2. Claim the Mueller report doesn't exist (10 cases of obstruction, multiple guilty pleas and convictions, 100+ meetings with Russians, etc..)
3. Threaten to uphold the next Democratic president to constitutional norms and the law.

Okay.


3 people like this
Posted by West Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:34 pm

And when was the last time an impeachment hearing was held where one side was not permitted to call witnesses, not allowed to ask questions and much of the process was done in secret with no transcripts released? It’s a Stalinist trial—-look it up. You might learn something. This will never get past the Senate, if it even gets that far.


8 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 20, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

West Menlo:

it will get to the Senate and go no further. Comrade McConnell will see to that. The Republicans haven't been able to question witnesses? Have you actually watched or listened to the hearings? Or just been watching Fox, which hasn't shown much of the evidence of malfeasance that has been testified to. Hint: FOX hates Democrats and you won't get anything remotely close to a straight story out of them. FOX and MSNBC have been rated as the least trustworthy and most slanted news sources.


6 people like this
Posted by Pensive
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Nov 20, 2019 at 4:17 pm

> where one side was not permitted to call witnesses

Republicans called TWO of the witnesses yesterday, and ONE today

> not allowed to ask questions

We've seen many Republican questions (oft inane or irrelevant) over the last couple weeks.

You, sir, are off the rails. What's next? The sun rises in the West? How can you be so consistently in error?

> It’s a Stalinist trial

No, that will occur when Moscow Mitch gets his turn.


10 people like this
Posted by Can't Handle the Truth
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2019 at 5:27 pm

So let's see...West Menlo has nothing to offer but discredited conspiracy theories, hot takes from the alt-right media, and lots of hyperbole.

Has to be one of Devin Nunes' staffers.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

What gives you hope?
By Sherry Listgarten | 22 comments | 3,583 views

Shake Shack to open doors at San Mateo's Hillsdale Shopping Center this weekend
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 1,507 views

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 603 views

Premarital and Couples: What feeling is not allowed, and what do you use in its place?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 524 views

 

Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Almanac readers and foundations contributed over $150,000.

DONATE