Pence at IAC
Vice President Mike Pence told the audience at the International Astronautical Congress that the U.S. wants to lead in space, but seeks to work with like-minded nation. Credit: Craig Vander Galien

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence told an international audience that the United States intends to lead in space but seeks cooperation in space exploration with “freedom-loving” nations.

Pence, speaking at the opening ceremony of the 70th International Astronautical Congress here Oct. 21, made no new announcements about national space policy or international cooperation in his remarks, instead reiterating the Trump administration’s theme of renewed American leadership in space.

“Under President Donald Trump’s leadership, America is leading in space once again,” Pence said, a theme he returned to several times in a speech that lasted under 20 minutes. “He believes, as I do, that’s it’s America’s destiny to be the leader amongst nations in our adventure into the great unknown.”

Pence, though, said that the United States was willing to cooperate with other nations in space exploration. “The United States of America will always be willing to work closely with like-minded freedom-loving nations as we lead mankind into the final frontier,” he said.

He cited as examples of that interest by several nations in cooperation on the NASA-led Artemis program, including Australia and Canada. Last week, the Japanese government announced its intent to work with the U.S. on both the lunar Gateway and lunar landing missions.

Pence repeated the theme of working with “freedom-loving” countries and a favorable regulatory environment. “As more nations gain the ability to explore space and develop places beyond Earth’s atmosphere, we much also ensure that we carry into space our shared commitment to freedom, rule of law and private property,” he said. “We will use all legal and diplomatic means to create a stable and orderly space environment that drives opportunity, creates prosperity and ensures our security on Earth.”

Pence’s American-centric comments got a lukewarm reaction at times from a diverse international audience. A handful of people also walked out at the beginning of his speech, protesting his views on social issues.

Pence, though, got a much stronger reaction when he congratulated the crew of Apollo 11, who received the International Astronautical Federation’s World Space Award on the 50th anniversary of this historic mission. Buzz Aldrin attended the ceremony, along with family members representing Mike Collins and the late Neil Armstrong. “It’s an honor to be with all of you, and to remember the extraordinary contributions that you, Buzz, and your family members made to mankind 50 years ago,” Pence said.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...