Huntsville's aerospace community is revived after a challenge from the vice president.
During Mike Pence's visit to the Rocket City on Tuesday, he said Huntsville will lead the way in the next manned mission to the moon, and he gave NASA a deadline of five years. Many aerospace contractors told WAAY 31 they'll work hard to meet the vice president's goals.
"We are excited for the future of space exploration. We are embarking on a journey to return humans to the moon and eventually Mars, and Aerojet will be there every step of the way," said Bill Bigelow with Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Aerojet Rocketdyne makes rockets and missiles, and has a large presence in the Rocket City. Workers say a lot of progress is being made toward taking man, and the first woman, to the moon.
"Elements to get humans to the moon are coming in place. Rockets like the SLS can carry large payloads, humans and have the propulsion we need to move all of those elements over great distances in space," said Bigelow.
SLS, or Space Launch System, is NASA's program to build a rocket more powerful than the Saturn V, to get to the moon and beyond. It's come under fire in recent years, plagued by missed deadlines and budgets. Vice President Pence said if NASA can't rise to the occasion, Huntsville's private sector will.
Miller Belmont with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense says Pence's five-year deadline is reasonable.
"The technology is there. It's very feasible to do that," said Belmont.
Belmont said there could be benefits to going to the moon so soon.
"There are advantages to doing that. We can expand our technology, and it's a great way to get new technology, so there are lots of reasons to go back to the moon," said Belmont.
The future of SLS seemed in doubt earlier this month, but at the National Space Council meeting on Tuesday, NASA assured the vice president it will shift its goals to meet the deadlines. On Wednesday, Boeing, which is helping NASA build the rocket, told WAAY 31 it will meet deadlines by the end of the year.
Back at the global expo, contractors told WAAY 31 they'll do whatever it takes to complete the mission.
"We look forward to supporting NASA in achieving the goals laid out by the vice president," said Bigelow.
WAAY 31 reached out to other contractors, like Raytheon and Boeing. We are waiting on responses. WAAY 31 also reached out to the Marshall Space Flight Center for a response. We will let you know when we hear back.