Either Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin had a bad meal or he was as confused as we were about President Donald Trump’s comments on space and security Friday in the Oval Office.
The astronaut was at Trump’s side as the president announced a new executive order reestablishing the National Space Council — 24 years after it was last active — to direct space policy in his administration.
Trump’s remarks began with the president’s usual boasting: “We’re going to lead again like we never led before.” But he then appeared to claim all of space for the U.S., calling it the “next great American frontier.”
Trump also referred to space “providing the security that we need to protect the American people.” And he sent Aldrin’s eyebrows shooting up when he added, inexplicably, “At some point in the future, we’re going to look back and say, ‘How did we do it without space?’”
“We know what this is, space. That’s all it has to say: space,” Trump said as he prepared to sign his executive order. He then turned to Aldrin and asked, “There’s a lot of room out there, right?”
“To infinity, and beyond,” Aldrin quipped as others laughed. But Trump apparently didn’t get the reference to Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase in “Toy Story.”
“This is infinity here. It could be infinity,” Trump answered in a rambling response. “We don’t really don’t know. But it could be. It has to be something — but it could be infinity, right?”
Besides Aldrin, three other astronauts also joined the president in the Oval Office for the ceremony. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, however, only introduced the men — Aldrin, former astronaut David Wolf and current astronaut Benjamin Alvin Drew— and failed to mention the lone female astronaut on the scene, Sandy Magnus, The Washington Post reported. Magnus is currently the executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Pence will head the new space council, despite trying in vain in 2005 to shut down NASA’s space exploration plans. The council will also include members of Trump’s Cabinet and representatives from NASA. It’s still awaiting a new head of NASA, whom Trump hasn’t yet named.
The executive order also creates a “users’ advisory group” to “ensure that the interests of industries and other non-Federal entities involved in space activities, including in particular commercial entities, are adequately represented” in the council.
Aldrin hailed the move to reestablish the space council on his Twitter account, linking to the vice president’s comments, not Trump’s.