Status Report

P Mike Pence Visits, Calls on Ames to Write the Next Chapter for America in Space

By SpaceRef Editor
November 18, 2019
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Monday, November 18, 2019

Office of the Center Director


On November 14, 2019, we had the honor of hosting Vice President Mike Pence for a visit to NASA’s Ames Research Center. His remarks were broadcast on NASA TV and you can find the text of the official remarks here.

Thank you to the entire workforce for contributing to the atmosphere he felt while he was here – that of our innovative Center with a rich history, 21st-century expertise, and the technological leadership of a one-of-akind region. And, a special thanks to the numerous employees across the Center who were directly involved in supporting this event.

Touring with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, the vice president commended Ames’ innovators and visionaries for their role in building Silicon Valley into a technological powerhouse and in bringing expert knowledge and dedication to the Center’s endeavors today. Pence learned about some of these during his time at Ames, with visits to facilities and projects critical for the Artemis program.

Pence heard about NASA’s thermal protection materials and testing at his first stop: the Arc Jet Complex, a high-energy wind tunnel that simulates the intense heating experienced by spacecraft entering an atmosphere at thousands of miles per hour.

Calling out Ames’ 80-year history of leadership in aeronautics, the vice president made a stop at the Vertical Motion Simulator – the world’s largest flight simulator. As many of you have seen or contributed your talents to, the VMS can be customized for different aerospace projects, including the design of systems to bring American astronauts to the lunar surface, and help train future Artemis astronauts for the task of landing. During the tour, Pence and Bridenstine piloted a lunar lander during a simulated flight to the Moon’s surface.

On the science side of NASA’s lunar exploration program, Pence recognized the Center’s contributions to understanding the Moon. Ames led three of the last five NASA lunar science missions and is now working on instruments to study lunar geology, biology experiments, and technology demonstrations to fly with commercial services or future NASA robotic missions.

Pence viewed an engineering test unit of Ames’ newly announced VIPER mission, short for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover. Launching to the Moon in 2022, VIPER will map out the location and concentration of water ice at the Moon’s south pole, ahead of the first Artemis astronauts’ arrival in 2024.

Addressing us all during his remarks at Ames, Pence noted the importance of that water for a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon and of developing the tools and processes to use it – all as a steppingstone to humanity’s next great leap toward Mars.

“Ames plays a critical part in developing the technology we’ll need to live on the Moon for months or even years,” Pence said. “This will require technology once considered science fiction. But here at Ames you’ve been doing it for decades, making science fiction into science fact.”

The vice president sees busy times ahead for Ames in creating our shared future in space.

“I passed through not long ago, but I promised to come back, because you all have been making history for a long time,” Pence said. “And we’re about to make even more history, and it’ll pass right through NASA Ames and all of your incredible talents.”

“In the years ahead, I want you to get ready because you’re going to write your chapter here at NASA Ames. You’re going to write a new chapter of American history and, frankly, of human history and leadership in space.”

We know this level of visit affects daily operations. We apologize for disruption to movement around the Center during the elevated security required for the visit and appreciate your support and understanding. These are quite special occasions though – our historian informs me that we’ve never hosted a sitting president, but this was the third visit of a sitting vice president to Ames, the others being Lyndon Johnson in 1961 and George H.W. Bush in 1988.

This high-level attention honors eight decades of work by you, our dedicated and talented staff, and your predecessors. I am extremely proud of the professionalism of the NASA staff who worked tirelessly to make the events yesterday such a flawless success. And thank you to our entire Ames family for making us a showcase Center for NASA!

Eugene L. Tu

Center Director

SpaceRef staff editor.