U.S. Vice President Mike Pence toured the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 6, and touched a piece of space flight equipment despite specific instructions not to do so.
Pence and his cohorts toured the Kennedy Space Center, greeting employees and getting a good view of the artifacts and equipment on display, according to Gizmodo. Pence's group arrived at one particular piece of space flight equipment with a printed sign reading "DO NOT TOUCH" in bold red letters. Pence pressed his hand directly upon the equipment, just below the sign.
The photo of Pence's hand touching the space flight equipment quickly went viral. It predictably became meme fodder and inspired a photo alteration contest in which Reddit users made creative depictions of the now-infamous Pence touch.
Pence's visit to the Kennedy Space Center represented an important step for space travel, however, as Pence was making his second visit in as many months July 6. Both he and U.S. President Donald Trump remain committed to reinvigorating space travel, Pence said, and hope to get astronauts to Mars by 2030, according to ABC News.
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Pence serves as chairman of the National Space Council, a revived program that was scrapped under former U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1993. Pence attended several launches at Cape Canaveral as a Congressman and his son, now a Marine aviator, was "inspired" to become a pilot by the launches seen at the space center.
Pence addressed a large crowd of more than 1,200 people at the Kennedy Space Center, making clear that space travel has again become a priority for the United States. Pence told the crowd that under Trump, the U.S. will again be number one in space travel and exploration.
Trump has said that the restart of the National Space Council was a clear message to other world leaders that the U.S. would dominate space travel, and promised that innovation required to make such exploration a possibility would be a boon to the country's economy, according to WFTV.
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Dale Ketcham, chief strategist of alliances for Space Florida, hoped Pence would outline the Trump administration's plan for NASA and space exploration.
"NASA is still focused on its key exploration mission," Ketcham said. "The commercial sector is where the growth opportunity for jobs, economic activity and mostly innovation is coming from."
The National Space Council said the purpose of Pence's visit was to get a better understanding of how the Kennedy Space Center could serve as a commercial launch site for future missions, as well as monitoring progress on specific projects.