Skip to comments.Giant leap II: Bush to announce plan for Mars, Moon missions
Posted on 01/08/2004 11:19:24 PM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON -- President Bush will outline a plan for returning humans to the moon as preparation for exploring deeper space destinations, including Mars, administration sources said late Thursday.
The president's plan will call for phasing out the U.S. role in the international space station and abandoning the beleaguered space shuttle program, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
At the same time, the president is not expected to call for sending a human to Mars anytime soon, but instead will lay out a series of goals aimed at helping NASA recover from the Columbia disaster and build on the success of the recent landing of a robotic rock hound on the Red Planet.
Unclear late Thursday was whether the president will set out any proposed changes in the hierarchy for space exploration -- a shift that some are pushing within the administration -- to allow NASA and the Defense Department to swap more information and technology.
Sources familiar with the policy, which is similar to a proposal made by Bush's father almost 15 years ago, was developed by a team overseen by Vice President Dick Cheney. Administration officials see the initiative as a vital national security measure that would lead to development of new technologies and potential new sources of energy.
The president's announcement, which is tentatively scheduled for the middle of next week after his return from the Summit of the Americas in Mexico, will call for exploring multiple destinations, with the lunar outpost being a possible first step.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters traveling with Bush in Florida that the president would make an announcement about space next week, but he declined to give details.
Last summer, the president ordered a top-to-bottom "review of our space policy, including our priorities and the future direction of the program, and the president will have more to say on it next week," McClellan said.
Bush has been expected to announce a major space initiative, and some had speculated that he would do so at the 100th-anniversary celebration of the Wright brothers' first flight last month in North Carolina. Instead, he only pledged to keep the United States at the forefront of world aviation.
Under Bush's proposal, astronauts would return to the moon by 2013 to test spacecraft and equipment for further exploration in deep space, including manned missions to initially orbit Mars, land and be able to return.
The last manned mission to the moon was in 1972. A total of 12 Americans walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972.
The nation's space shuttle fleet, the backbone of NASA's manned space program, is designed only for near-Earth orbit and for ferrying equipment, supplies and crew members between Earth and the space station.
When NASA's shuttle fleet resumes missions, possibly as soon as September, the three remaining orbiters would be used to finish station assembly. By 2016, after finishing research on the human response to long-duration spaceflight, NASA's role in the station would diminish, shifting the burden for maintaining the orbiting space lab to the Russians, Europeans and Japanese.
According to an account that will be published in Aviation Week & Space Technology, the White House will drop plans for a reusable orbital space plane. Congress has failed to embrace the space plane, which NASA began to pursue about three years ago.
The nation's space agency already has plans on the books for sending unmanned missions from Earth to the icy moons of Jupiter and to return to Mars with another robotic mission capable of returning to Earth with soil and rock samples.
Last Saturday, a six-wheeled robot developed by NASA landed on Mars and began sending back images of the planet.
The vehicle, called the Spirit, eventually is to begin moving about the planet, sampling the soil and rocks. A second rover is due to land on Mars on Jan. 24.
The last president to propose a manned mission to Mars was Bush's father, former President Bush, who in 1989 said Americans should lead the way "back to the moon, back to the future, and this time to stay."
When he outlined his proposal on the 20th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, then-President Bush said the next step would be "a journey to another planet: a manned mission to Mars."
At the time, the estimated cost was between $400 billion and $500 billion, a price tag too high for Congress, which scuttled the proposal.
Similar obstacles confront any plan that the current president might propose. Faced with a budget deficit that is expected to top $500 billion this year alone.
Bush's proposal, if it wins support in Congress, will be a significant realignment of the nation's space program, which for the last decade has seen no growth in its budget at a time when it has been trying to keep the aging shuttle fleet aloft and build a space station that has consistently run over budget.
Glenn Mahone, a spokesman for NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, said the president "is certainly committed to America's space program and to the cause of exploration." Mahone declined to discuss details of Bush's plan.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, among others in Congress, has called for an expansion of the U.S. space program, including a return to the moon.
Apollo 11, which landed on the moon in July 1969, was the first of six to successfully make lunar landings. The others were missions 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17, which made the last landing in December 1972.
How about a deed to the carbonacious chondritic asteroid? Ownership of the resource comes first, then we'll see if there is some possible interest in resource extraction.
Since the Apollo days, I recall, there have been international agreements against claiming territory on the moon or elsewhere. Again, raw materials and real estate are not the only marketable products, here or up there. Scientific data and entertaining multimedia presentations are valuable commodities as well.
There is such thing as High-Risk Venture capital. Get an eccentric billionaire on board. Literally. Remember that rich old guy who paid millions to the Russians for flying him into space ?
Look at the size of the world steel industry. That's the scale space operations will need. Eccentric billionaires don't have that kind of cash. Neither Las Vegas nor San Diego has that kind of cash.
That's funny! Because, just a moment ago, you cited repentant_pundit's post while declaring him and the rest of us who dare not buy into your ideas regarding the public funding of space exploration to be "neo-trogs [who] rot in the muck and lichens," who will (if left to themselves, I guess) "devolve back to the primordial slime, all the while fretting over petty and unimportant matters seemingly made large by the smallness of their minds." That, along with a good dose of other such vitriolic bile.
Now, you say he put words in your mouth, and our point of public funding is "fair enough"? Very funny, indeed. A regular Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Right. Air Force gets most of the funding. Navy gets GPS and radar.
I think we need to learn more about the bottom of the sea. I will do a 2-year scientific voyage to the bottom of the sea in exchange for 45 billion dollars pre-paid.
What do you mean, that's too much money ? Where's your spirit of adventure ? Don't you want knowledge that might help save the whales ? What have you got against whales ? We as a nation will stagnate without such voyages; we must maintain a sense of reaching beyond ourselves. There are some things you shouldn't put a price tag on, although I'm happy to send you the bill for it.
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