Bridenstine praises international partners amid “America first” push to the moon

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today championed the role of “international partners” in achieving the U.S. goal of returning astronauts to the moon by 2024, presenting a contrast in tone to Vice President Mike Pence, who emphasized returning “American astronauts to the moon.”

“We want to go to the moon and stay, and by the way, we want all of your nations to participate in this activity with us,” Bridenstine said in front of attendees from dozens of countries at the 2019 IAA Planetary Defense Conference in Maryland. He underscored the point: “When we go, we’re going to stay with commercial partners and international partners.”

On planetary defense, Bridenstine said, “we need every nation on the Earth” involved in averting possible collisions with near-Earth objects and preparing for those collisions that can’t be averted. Attendees at the biennial gathering of experts including astrophysicists and engineers trade ideas for how to best defend Earth from collisions with comets and asteroids. Bridenstine noted that the meteor that broke apart over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013 released “30 times the energy of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.”

Although many of NASA’s existing programs, like maintaining the International Space Station, require collaboration with other space-faring nations, President Donald Trump’s administration has stressed the importance of American boots on the moon. Pence at the National Space Council Meeting in March called on NASA to “renew American leadership in human space exploration.”

“And let me be clear: The first woman and the next man on the Moon will both be American astronauts, launched by American rockets, from American soil,” Pence said, according to a White House transcript.

Bridenstine has said NASA will accomplish the 2024 moon landings “by any means necessary,” but he’s already had to contend with international partners made uneasy by the Trump administration’s declarations. Bridenstine told reporters earlier this month at the Space Symposium in Colorado that the U.S. is “not abandoning” its international partners.

“I’ve had conversations with our international partners, and I’ve been working to assure them that this doesn’t change anything,” he said.

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Bridenstine praises international partners amid “America first” push to the moon