WASHINGTON — President Trump will attend the SpaceX rocket launch at NASA’s Kennedy Center in Florida next Wednesday — his first major trip unrelated to the coronavirus crisis, The Post has learned.
A senior administration official confirmed the visit after the president floated the idea while talking with reporters on Thursday before departing for a trip to Michigan to tour a Ford factory producing ventilators.
“He’s planning on going as of now,” the source said, but cautioned that the Florida visit would depend on weather conditions and other factors.
The historic mission launch from Cape Canaveral on May 27 will see NASA launch two astronauts into orbit on Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for a months-long mission on the International Space Station.
It’s the first time NASA has launched astronauts to the Space Station from the U.S. since 2011 and is SpaceX’s first crewed flight for NASA under a multi-billion dollar contract.
Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn that he was planning on making the in-person trip.
“I’m thinking about going, and that’ll be next week, to the rocket launch,” he said, before joking that he’d also like to put some members of the press on the shuttle, too.
“I hope you’re all going to join me. I’d like to put you on the rocket, get rid of you for a while,” he added.
The Florida visit will be Trump’s first major trip unrelated to the COVID-19 outbreak.
After spending two months confined to the White House, the president has slowly started taking trips to key battleground states including Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan, to tour facilities manufacturing medical supplies in the fight against the virus.
But the virus, which has so far killed 95,000 people in the U.S., has foiled the president’s plans to hold re-election rallies across the country and he is grappling with how to connect with voters amid the crisis.
It’s understood that Vice President Mike Pence will also be at the historic Florida launch.
Pence confirmed his attendance during a trip to Florida on Thursday where he met with GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss efforts to reopen the Sunshine State during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s great to be in Florida because I’m going to be back in a week, because not too far from here, for the first time in almost 10 years, we’re going to send American astronauts back to space in American rockets from Kennedy Space,” Pence said.
“He’s been a great advocate for the space industry, in terms of NASA and also the private sector,” DeSantis added.
“That’s been a huge driver here in the state of Florida. They continue to do good things even through this pandemic and will continue going forward,” he said.
President Trump has spoken fondly of Musk in the past, praising him as “one of our great geniuses” and comparing him to legendary inventor Thomas Edison.
Space travel has been a cornerstone of the president’s first term in office with the launch of his anticipated Space Force program last year.