In the shadow of the Space Shuttle Discovery, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks before convening the first meeting of the U.S. National Space Council at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, October 5, 2017.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

In the shadow of the Space Shuttle Discovery, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks before convening the first meeting of the U.S. National Space Council at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, October 5, 2017.

Led by vice president Mike Pence, a bevy of White House officials and space industry executives met Thursday at the first National Space Council since its disbandment in 1993.

“American leadership in space will be assured,” Pence said. “We will return Americans to the moon … and build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond.”

The meeting’s opening remarks focused on moving away from the current outsourcing of manned launches, in which American astronauts go to space on Russian rockets.

“America seems have lost our edge in space,” Pence said. “Rather than lead in space, too often we’ve chosen to drift and, as we learned 60 years ago, when we drift we fall behind.”

“America must lead in space once again,” he said.

Chief executives Marillyn Hewson, Dennis Muilenburg and David Thompson — of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Orbital ATK, respectively — each stressed a similar desire to lead the world in space exploration. None of the CEOs reiterated Pence’s statement that America is behind in space leadership.

“We have proven that U.S. ventures in space lead to broad societal benefits that lift our national economy,” Hewson said.

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