The Pentagon was already concerned on the strides China and Russia are earning negating U.S. Military advantages in the distance, and now a minimum of one of them appears to be catching up in the civil distance too. Pence made it crystal clear that like the president isn’t a patient person. Any company that can’t keep up with the accelerated pace of Moon work risks being left behind. In Boeing’s case, which may mean seeing its Space Launch System rocket, superseded by commercial rockets.
Nevertheless, the instant impact of the vice president’s comments was to confirm that SLS stays the centerpiece of U.S. Deep space exploration efforts, which under Trump and Pence are supposed to return U.S. Astronauts to the Moon and after that reach onward to Mars. Boeing, a contributor to my think tank, is the prime contractor on what is going to be the most strong rocket ever built. The basic concept is to build a rocket capable of lifting 77 tons to low earth orbit, and after that evolve it in measures to much larger payloads that may one day take astronauts to from the Red Planet.
Nobody has ever attempted to do that before, but NASA’s architectural studies within the last 3 decades consistently indicated that the rocket even larger than the Saturn V used at the Apollo missions will be required. There’s very little military or commercial demand for this type of rocket, so NASA needed to develop. This might have been done decades before, but there was no political consensus regarding the future of NASA’s human exploration program once the Moon race won. The Space Shuttle was a remarkable accomplishment, however, it was only designed to achieve a low earth orbit.