THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Robert. To Governor Abbott, to Senator Cruz, Congressman and Chairman Lamar Smith, Congressman and Chairman Brian Babin, to our great acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, Director Ellen Ochoa, to distinguished guests, to all the NASA team here at Johnson Space Center, I can't tell you how privileged and honored I feel today to be able to congratulate the newest class of American heroes, the 2017 Class of America's Astronauts. (Applause.)
These are 12 men and women whose personal excellence and whose personal courage will carry our nation to even greater heights of discovery and who I know will inspire our children and our grandchildren every bit as much as your forebears have done so in this storied American program.
And to this newest class of astronauts, it's my honor to bring the sincere congratulations of the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
Your President is proud of you, and so am I. And President Donald Trump is firmly committed to NASA's noble mission leading America in space. (Applause.)
Earlier this year, after the signing of the first NASA Authorization Act in seven years, the President renewed in his words our national commitment to "NASA's mission of exploration and discovery". The President actually said that we must have, in his words, "the courage to look for answers in places that we have never looked before and to think in new ways."
And he said these new discoveries remind us that here in America, anything is possible if we have the courage and wisdom to lead. (Applause.)
Now for my part, it really is a joy for this lifelong NASA fan to be standing here at the Johnson Space Center -- on my birthday, no less. (Applause.)
This really is a special place. Think about it. For more than half a century, this center has guided America's astronauts in their exploration of the heavens.
You here have managed 211 of America's crewed missions into space -- every single one -- from Gemini Four in 1965, to the International Space Station at this very moment.
Here, you've navigated the first members of the human family to the moon, brought the crew of Apollo 13 back home safe and sound. And even now, you walk America's astronauts through their work as they walk above us in space.
You know, I caught "Space Fever" as a little boy in a small town in southern Indiana. And some of the most cherished memories of my youth were our family gathered around that black-and-white television, watching the images of your predecessors expanding the horizons of human knowledge with American leadership and American courage.
As a member of Congress, I actually asked to serve on the Science committee, on the NASA subcommittee, Mr. Chairman. And I had the privilege, along with my wife, Karen, and our three children to attend many shuttle launches at the Kennedy Space Center.
I have no doubt that my son, who is now a Marine Corps aviator himself, was actually inspired to put on the uniform and to get in the cockpit from that one day that we sat in the grandstands when he was 10 years old at the Kennedy Space Center and watched with awe as America's heroic astronauts hurled into the heavens.
I remember I said at the time and have thought ever since that to see a launch, especially at night at Cape Canaveral, it's like seeing the Earth giving birth to a piece of the sun and sending it home. The courage of these men and women and all the astronauts who have gone before inspires me to this very day.
Americans marvel at our astronauts. Only 338 Americans have ever held the title of American astronaut. While their numbers may be few, their accomplishments have been legion. And the tales of our astronauts are a testament to the indomitable spirit of the United States of America.
The astronauts of NASA have expanded our horizons and our hopes and inspired not only the American people, but all the world, with their extraordinary courage and achievements.
The names of their missions adorn the mantle of American greatness -- Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, our Space Shuttles, from Atlantis to Enterprise, and more.
And the names of our heroic astronauts have been carved into the hearts of every American -- John Glenn, Alan Shepard, the rest of Mercury Seven, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Mae Jemison and Sally Ride, and all the men and women who took our nation to new heights.
But it's not just the astronauts. As you 12 know already and you're going to learn a lot more in the days ahead, we couldn't go anywhere without the dedication of the more than 17,000 men and women of NASA and the extraordinary contractors who send you to the heavens and bring you home. (Applause.)
And let me make a promise to all of them and to these courageous newly minted heroes on this stage. Our administration, this will be true: NASA will have the resources and supports you need to continue to make history, to push the boundaries of human knowledge and advance American leadership to the boundless frontier of space. (Applause.)
Under President Donald Trump, America will lead in space once again, and the world will marvel. (Applause.)
President Trump, though, recognizes that America needs a coherent and cohesive approach to the last and greatest, frontier. That's why I'm especially excited to announce, after more than two decades from when it was disbanded, that soon, President Trump will relaunch the National Space Council, and it will be my great honor, as Vice President of the United States, to chair the new National Space Council in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
America needs a National Space Council once again. Twice before in our nation's history, our nation has had a federal body charged with advising the President on national policy and strategy for space. The first Space Council helped marshal America's "energies and skills" during the infancy of our nation's attempts to reach the stars. It was under the council's watch that America put a man -- the first man in outer space and put a man on the moon in less than a decade between.
Our National Space Council will reenergize the pioneering spirit of America in space, and it will ensure that America never again loses our lead in space exploration, innovation, and technology.
As President Trump said in his inaugural address, we will continue to "unlock the mysteries of space," but to do so, we must reorient our civilian space program toward deep space exploration and provide the capabilities for America to maintain a constant presence in low-Earth orbit and beyond.
The American spirit is as limitless as space itself. And by tapping the bottomless well of American innovation, through increased collaboration with commercial space industries, we can seize opportunities that will benefit our nation and our people for generations to come.
History has been made in these halls, and today, we're making history once again. Behind me stand 12 men and women who have already soared to tremendous heights in their careers, the newest class of America's astronauts.
You 12 have already distinguished yourselves. As Administrator Lightfoot just mentioned, more than 18,300 people applied to be members of this 12-member class, smashing the previous record of 8,000 applicants which was set back in 1978.
You are the 12 who made it through. You have joined the elites. You are the best of us. You carry on your shoulders the hopes and dreams of the American people.
And I would imagine that your families, many who are gathered here, feel an almost inexpressible pride -- for you have been chosen to become astronauts. Let's give these families another round of applause. (Applause.) There's an old saying that when you see a box turtle on a fence post, one thing you know for sure, he didn't get there on his own. (Laughter.) And I know for every one of you -- those that are gathered here and those that are looking on -- have been there to lift you up, to hold up your arms and bring you to this extraordinary moment in your life.
It's amazing to think what you all have accomplished so many millions of Americans have dreamed about. They have. And they'll keep dreaming about it in generations to come. It was a flight of fancy for a little boy in Columbus, Indiana. But for you, that flight became your future, that dream has become your destiny. And in the years to come, you will depart from this blue marble, and take your place among the roll of American legends who have broken past the bonds of Earth.
Now their legacy falls to you, and you will follow in their contrails -- and chart a path into the unknown.
As American astronauts, you may yet return our nation to the moon. You may be the first to travel to Mars. You may have experiences that we can only imagine, those of us who walk on terra firma.
But as you go forward, be assured: The American people stand with you. And the countless men and women behind the scenes who will carry you into space -- we stand with you, as well.
And make no mistake about it. I know the path you have chosen is hard. But as President John F. Kennedy said not far from right here back in 1962, we know you choose to do these things not "because they are easy," but rather, in his words, "because they are hard." Because that challenge is one that you're willing to accept, unwilling to postpone. And that's a challenge, as President Kennedy said, "one which we intend to win."
And let me say to these astronauts and all that are gathered here: We will win.
Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States will usher in a new era of space exploration that will benefit every facet of our national life. It will strengthen our national security and the safety of the American people. It will strengthen our economy, as we unlock new opportunities and new sources of prosperity. It will strengthen education in inspiring a rising generation of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and math.
And more than anything else, as the President believes with deep conviction, we'll strengthen the American spirit -- as once again, we reach out our hands to touch the heavens and raise our heads to gaze with wonder at the stars and the heroes that have the courage to explore them.
You 12 will be part of our vanguard. You're the heroes, you're the patriots, the trailblazers in the best American tradition. And I know you're humbled to be among that group.
To the 12 members of this new class of American astronauts, I say congratulations. You've already captured the respect and admiration of your peers, and when you lift off the launch pad, to boldly go, you'll capture the imagination of your nation and the world. And I believe with all of my heart, that when you go, you will not go alone.
For as the Psalmist teaches us, if you rise on the wings of the dawn, if you go up to the heavens, even there His hand will guide you, and His right hand will hold you fast.
As you begin this journey, know that you will be carried by grace and by the prayers of the American people.
So, Godspeed to the Class of 2017. May God guide you and bless you. May God bless NASA and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)