Pence, Not Trump, Called NASA Chief to Congratulate Him on Mars InSight Landing

Vice President Mike Pence congratulated NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine for the successful landing of the NASA Mars InSight Lander, Bridenstine revealed on Monday.

“As soon as it was over, I got a call on my cell phone and the phone number was all zeros, and whenever I get a phone call that’s all zeros, it’s gotta be somebody important, and when I answered it, it was the vice president,” Bridenstine says in the video above. “He watched the whole thing, he is absolutely ecstatic about our program.”

Pence has long been the head of the National Space Council, an agency resurrected before President Donald Trump was inaugurated. The NSC was first established as the National Aeronautics and Space Council through the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which also created NASA. It was tasked with sitting at the intersection of all agencies involved in national space policy to best determine national priorities. At the time, the NASC was chaired by the president himself, Dwight Eisenhower, and included the secretaries of the state and defense, NASA’s administrator, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and four presidential advisors.

Watch the emotional moment that InSight touched down below.

Pence is, no doubt, a fan of space, and he loves to wax poetic about rocket launches, repeating a strange phrase often in his early tenure as the Executive Branch’s space representative.

This year, he saw Trump step into the space realm, with Space Force, which would be a new branch of the armed forces.

In addition to calling Bridenstine on Monday, Pence shared his congratulations on Twitter: “Congratulations to @NASA, @LockheedMartin, @ulalaunch, & all who made today’s @NASAInSight #MarsLanding possible! This marks the 8th time the US has landed on Mars & the 1st mission to study its deep interior. Incredible milestone!”

Trump had not commented about the landing on Twitter on Monday, but wasn’t apparently tweeting during it. About five minutes before the landing, Trump was calling for the “United States starting our own Worldwide Network” to compete with CNN on Twitter.

There’s no established rule as to who calls NASA to congratulate leaders at the space agency when it has accomplished a key part of a mission. In the past, the president has called, as Barack Obama did in 2012 when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars. However, Obama made his congratulatory phone call a week after Curiosity landed, so Trump still has time if he’s interested in continuing to compare himself to his predecessor, which he’s done numerous times since being elected in November 2016.

Media via Screenshot via NASA