President Trump will attend the SpaceX launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida next Wednesday, to witness the launch of Americans into space for the first time in nearly a decade from American soil.
“Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,” Trump said in a statement.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are scheduled to fly on May 27 at 4:33 pm ET, lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center complex at Cape Canaveral for a months-long mission on the International Space Station. NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will launch on SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, owned by tech billionaire Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX and the electric-car company Tesla.
It will be the first time that NASA has launched astronauts from the United States to the International Space Station since 2011 — and the first time NASA is sending astronauts into orbit aboard a spacecraft built by a private company.
Vice President Pence said in an interview with Fox News that he thinks the timing of the launch will show the American people that America leads with “courage and with bravery” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“When that rocket goes off next week, it’ll remind the American people that even in the midst of the most challenging times, America still moves forward,” Pence said. “America continues to lead with courage and with bravery. Just like every American family has done, the NASA family did that throughout the coronavirus pandemic. They stayed on mission.”
Pence confirmed his attendance during a trip to Florida on Thursday when he met with GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss efforts to reopen the Sunshine State amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s great to be in Florida because I’m going to be back in a week, because not too far from here, for the first time in almost 10 years, we’re going to send American astronauts back to space in American rockets from Kennedy Space,” Pence said.
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) said that he urged President Trump to attend the launch and plans to join the president aboard Air Force One to the event.
“With everything going on, the relaunch of America, the relaunch of our economy, the relaunch of Florida, the symbolism I think is really exciting,” Waltz said in an interview with Politico. “President Trump appreciates it for how important it is for Florida’s economy, how important it is for the country.”
— Michael Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) May 22, 2020
Trump told reporters during a press gaggle before heading to Michigan on Thursday that he was planning on attending the launch and joked that he would like to put some members of the press on the rocket to get “rid of” them for a while.
“I’m thinking about going. That’ll be next week to the rocket launch. I hope you’re all going to join me. I’d like to put you on the rocket, get rid of you for a while.
The Florida visit will be Trump’s fourth trip this month and will mark his first major trip unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s three prior trips included his recent trip to Ford Motor plant in Michigan producing ventilators and other protective equipment to help front-line health care workers combat the pandemic. He made a similar trip to Pennsylvania last week and Arizona earlier this month.