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White House Colloquy with Apollo 11 Crew, NASA Administrator

July 19, 2019 (EIRNS)—This afternoon, President Donald Trump conducted a live broadcast colloquy on the future of the space program with Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and Neil Armstrong’s son Rick. This was an open-ended, unrehearsed discussion, broadcast on live television and posted to the Internet, unlike anything seen from the White House.

Trump sat at his desk in the Oval Office surrounded by the chief participants, as well as the First Lady and other members of Armstrong and Aldrin’s families.

After some remarks stressing the importance of tomorrow’s Moon landing anniversary and the revival of the space program, Trump remarked that the mission to Mars would go via the Moon, and asked Bridenstine whether there were any way around that. Bridenstine said we had to go to the Moon first, both to test systems and because the “Gateway” orbiting the Moon provided a low-gravity resistance platform to launch from. Aldrin agreed, but Collins answered, “Mars direct.” Trump said that sounded easier, but Bridenstine elaborated on the advantages of the Gateway.

Trump then asked the Chairman of the Space Council, Vice President Mike Pence, what he thought of the job Bridenstine and NASA were doing. Pence said it was tremendous, particularly that, as a result of Trump’s initiative, the U.S. would be sending astronauts into space on U.S. rockets from U.S. soil again. There followed a discussion of the commercial use of the International Space Station and of NASA facilities. Collins said it was great to bring in money from those sources to finance the program.

Trump asked him how things differed now from the way things were done 50 years ago, and Collins answered that retrieving and re-using propulsion systems as SpaceX is now doing is a tremendous advance. Saturn just wasted five good rockets on every launch, he explained.

Aldrin answered that he has not been happy about the program for the last 10-15 years, and said maybe it was the war in Southwest Asia that drained the budget. He was concerned that 50 years ago we had a system that worked, consisting of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the command module, and the lunar module, that the team could handle and could do the job. Now, he’s concerned that there is no maneuverable Moon orbiting component.

Bridenstine answered that he knew that, and that it was something that had to be worked on. He said the Orion capsule would help in that. Trump then told Bridenstine, “But you have to listen to the other side. Some people want to go another way, and you have to hear them out.” Bridenstine agreed.

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