How cool would it be to get to deliver a message of hope to the men and women who exploring further than American, and any human, has ever traveled before?
That is exactly what Vice President Mike Pence got to do on Wednesday, when he delivered a commencement address to NASA’s “graduating class” of new astronauts. However, before his speech he got the amazing opportunity to tour NASA’s historic Mission Control in Houston, Texas and the kind folks at NASA even had a special birthday present for the VP.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) June 7, 2017
As part of his visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center on June 7, to welcome America’s newest astronaut candidates, Vice President Mike Pence took a tour of the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center and was briefed on current human spaceflight operations.
The Vice President also joined Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot and Johnson Center Director Ellen Ochoa to announce the 12 men and women who were selected to the 2017 astronaut class from more than 18,300 applicants. The new astronaut candidates could one day be performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil aboard spacecraft built by American companies, and traveling to the moon or even Mars with the help of NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.
The Vice President not only congratulated the new graduates of NASA’s astronaut school, he also delivered a message of hope for America’s future in space. Pence promised the gathered crowd that the United States would once again lead the way in space exploration and that he and President Trump would provide NASA with all the tools needed to continue the mission of exploring deep space.
History has been made in these halls, and today, we’re making history once again. Behind me stand 12 men and women who have already soared to tremendous heights in their careers, the newest class of America’s astronauts.
You 12 have already distinguished yourselves. As Administrator Lightfoot just mentioned, more than 18,300 people applied to be members of this 12-member class, smashing the previous record of 8,000 applicants which was set back in 1978.
You are the 12 who made it through. You have joined the elites. You are the best of us. You carry on your shoulders the hopes and dreams of the American people.
And I would imagine that your families, many who are gathered here, feel an almost inexpressible pride — for you have been chosen to become astronauts. Let’s give these families another round of applause. (Applause.) There’s an old saying that when you see a box turtle on a fence post, one thing you know for sure, he didn’t get there on his own. (Laughter.) And I know for every one of you — those that are gathered here and those that are looking on — have been there to lift you up, to hold up your arms and bring you to this extraordinary moment in your life.
It’s amazing to think what you all have accomplished so many millions of Americans have dreamed about. They have. And they’ll keep dreaming about it in generations to come. It was a flight of fancy for a little boy in Columbus, Indiana. But for you, that flight became your future, that dream has become your destiny. And in the years to come, you will depart from this blue marble, and take your place among the roll of American legends who have broken past the bonds of Earth.
Now their legacy falls to you, and you will follow in their contrails — and chart a path into the unknown.
As American astronauts, you may yet return our nation to the moon. You may be the first to travel to Mars. You may have experiences that we can only imagine, those of us who walk on terra firma.
But as you go forward, be assured: The American people stand with you. And the countless men and women behind the scenes who will carry you into space — we stand with you, as well.
And make no mistake about it. I know the path you have chosen is hard. But as President John F. Kennedy said not far from right here back in 1962, we know you choose to do these things not “because they are easy,” but rather, in his words, “because they are hard.” Because that challenge is one that you’re willing to accept, unwilling to postpone. And that’s a challenge, as President Kennedy said, “one which we intend to win.”
And let me say to these astronauts and all that are gathered here: We will win.
Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States will usher in a new era of space exploration that will benefit every facet of our national life. It will strengthen our national security and the safety of the American people. It will strengthen our economy, as we unlock new opportunities and new sources of prosperity. It will strengthen education in inspiring a rising generation of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and math.
And more than anything else, as the President believes with deep conviction, we’ll strengthen the American spirit — as once again, we reach out our hands to touch the heavens and raise our heads to gaze with wonder at the stars and the heroes that have the courage to explore them.
You 12 will be part of our vanguard. You’re the heroes, you’re the patriots, the trailblazers in the best American tradition. And I know you’re humbled to be among that group.
To the 12 members of this new class of American astronauts, I say congratulations. You’ve already captured the respect and admiration of your peers, and when you lift off the launch pad, to boldly go, you’ll capture the imagination of your nation and the world. And I believe with all of my heart, that when you go, you will not go alone.
For as the Psalmist teaches us, if you rise on the wings of the dawn, if you go up to the heavens, even there His hand will guide you, and His right hand will hold you fast.
As you begin this journey, know that you will be carried by grace and by the prayers of the American people.
So, Godspeed to the Class of 2017. May God guide you and bless you. May God bless NASA and may God bless the United States of America.