MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX 5) — During a fund-raising swing through California, Vice President Mike Pence came to the Bay Area to help re-launch America’s space plans.

“It is America’s destiny to be the leader among nations in our adventure into the great unknown,” Pence said before a cheering crowd of NASA employees at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View.

Mr. Pence said America’s newest space efforts will shoot for the Moon and even Mars. And he pledged President Trump’s support and budget priorities to make it possible.

“We’re going to send American astronauts, on American rockets from American soil back into space,” he said.

Mr. Pence spent the day at NASA Ames, touring buildings and meeting the scientists who make up the Artemis mission to put a man and woman on the surface of the moon by 2024.

He watched as scientists ran tests at the Arc Jet complex, a specialized high-energy wind tunnel that subjects spacecraft heat shields to temperatures as high as 14,000 degrees to simulate re-entry to earth’s atmosphere, or even entry into the atmospheres of other planets like Mars.

“This is the place that we can verify that our heat shields are going to work,” said George Raiche, a NASA Assistant Director for Exploration Technology.

One former Space Shuttle astronaut said going back into space won’t be easy, but America can draw on the experience of several Apollo and Space Shuttle missions.

“We had 135 Shuttle flights, of which I flew three. And we have a lot more capability that we did back then,” said Karol Bobko, who is now an aerospace engineer.

Pence said America will lead the way, but also plans to work with foreign and private sector business partners.

Besides landing the first humans on the moon since 1972, Artemis aims to help set up a permanent moon base that will support future missions to Mars.

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