The first meeting of the National Space Council started Thursday with a speech from Council Chairman and Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

“By reviving the National Space Council, President Donald Trump has declared to all of the world ‘America will lead in space once again,’” Pence said from a podium standing in front of the Space Shuttle that was previously used for sending astronauts to space.

Pence, who has been meeting with NASA researchers at centers across the country for the past few months, said he was humbled to be the chairman for the revived council. During one of these visits he gave a speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in which he called for further space exploration and said that the United States is at “the dawn of a new era of space exploration.”

Pence said then that he saw the future of space exploration including trips to the moon, Mars and beyond. Something he repeated in his speech Thursday. He said that the government has not been able to match the spirit the American people have for space travel. To correct this, he said, “President Trump has charged this National Space Council with reviewing America’s current policy and our long range goals and coordinating all national space activities from security to commerce to exploration.”

Pence said the President is also looking to work with private business leaders and innovators. Something NASA has already done through establishing the collaboration with SpaceX for resupply missions and eventually human transports to the International Space Station. Currently, NASA relies on the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to transport astronauts to and from the space station. 

“The President has charged us with laying the foundation for American to maintain a constant commercial human presence in low-Earth orbit. From there, we will turn our attention back toward our celestial neighbors. 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.”

He called the moon a “stepping stone” and “training ground” to help refocus the program on “human” space exploration. Pence repeatedly connected space exploration with national security.

Several NASA Twitter accounts tweeted quotes and videos from the event. 

The acting administrator of NASA said he was "confident and excited" about bringing a plan to the president to further NASA's work. Pence's speech as well as the meeting happened while two U.S. astronauts conducts a space walk from the ISS some 250 miles above the surface of the Earth.

NASA announced plans in September to team up with Roscosmos to create a "deep space gateway." The gateway would be a manned spacecraft that would stay in orbit around the moon and could be used as a midway point between Earth and deep space exploration. The craft isn't expected to become a reality until the 2020s.