U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday that the United States will return astronauts to the moon to build the foundation for human missions to Mars and beyond.
Pence delivered his remarks at the first meeting of the reconstituted National Space Council, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
"We will return American astronauts to the moon, not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond," said Pence, who served as the head of the council.
"The moon will be a stepping-stone, a training ground, a venue to strengthen our commercial and international partnerships as we refocus America's space program toward human space exploration," Pence said.
The council was first created in 1989 during the administration of President George H.W. Bush but later disbanded in 1993 under President Bill Clinton. President Donald Trump signed an executive order reestablishing the council on June 30, 2017.
Pence said his council will also "spur the development of space technology to protect America's national security."
"We won the race to the moon a half a century ago, and now we will win the 21st century in space," he said.
On Wednesday, Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that "America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars."