Trump looks to celebrate space launch victory amid national coronavirus struggle


Posted on: May 27th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksBy JORDYN PHELPS and BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump planned to travel to Florida Wednesday to witness the launch of the first manned space mission from U.S. soil since the space shuttle program was retired nearly a decade ago.

The planned launch marks a historic moment in U.S. space travel but will also take the president to a political battleground and could provide a national diversion amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as the country approaches the grim milestone of 100,000 lives lost.

Demonstrating the significance the White House is placing in the event, both the president and Vice President Mike Pence will attend Wednesday’s launch.

Trump has long shown a fascination with space exploration for both the role it plays in the American psyche and its strategic significance. He has sought to take credit for “reinvigorating” NASA, claiming in April it was “dead as a doornail and now it’s very much alive.”

The president re-established the National Space Council in 2017, created the Space Force as the sixth branch of the military in 2019 and has called for an accelerated timeline in sending astronauts back to the moon and, eventually, Mars.

Two veteran NASA astronauts are set to launch from Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday aboard a privately manufactured SpaceX shuttle with a mission to pilot the spacecraft to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s public-private Commercial Crew Program.

The president has bragged about the program as a win-win for the government, by allowing “rich guys” to bankroll the missions.

“We are letting those rich guys that like rockets, go ahead, use our property, pay us some rent,” Trump said at a rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, in November 2018. “Go ahead. You can use Cape Canaveral. You just pay us rent and spend that money.”

The trip also brings the president to a critical battleground state as his campaign events remain on hold amid the pandemic. Pence visited the state last week.

Since restarting official travel earlier this month, Trump has also traveled to Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan — all states that his campaign has deemed crucial to his re-election.

Those stops in many ways mimicked campaign events, using the same music playlist and enjoying the same type of promotion in local media before and after the president was in town.

Trump has also boasted of crowds lining the streets, cheering his arrival.

Along with Pence’s official travel, the Trump White House has taken taxpayer-funded trips to Pennsylvania, Arizona, Virginia, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and Florida as part of the administration’s effort to highlight efforts to reopen the country.

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