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.
Go, but do it right.
That one kills me! Actually, it's only about 10 percent more stupid than "We need to colonize the moon for additional living space" and 5 percent more stupid than "We need to colonize the moon for all the swell technology we will get". The politicians have picked the least stupid one and "That's their story and they're sticking with it".
Well, you will always have a few people more than willing to find excuses not to do something. I have no doubt that when the first cavemen set out to see what was over the next hill, one of his friends was probably chiding him, "Why do you want to do that? Things are just fine here..", or, when the first stonecutter was shaping a mass of rock into a wheel, some naysayer was probably deriding him, "Why are you wasting your time with that, it's perfectly fine being a blocky shape."
History is probably filled with people who were timid, who "thought small", who were of a less adventuresome inclination. I say "probably" because you don't hear about them. They are ciphers in the continuum of human development. You do hear about the people and nations who were willing to look beyond their own horizons, who had a vision of the future that went beyond material comforts and monetary rewards. That is the kind of country we once were and should be again, and tell the naysayers and business-as-usual short-term profits what's-the-bottom-line SOBs to take a flying leap.
The politicians, the fanatics, and anyone who stands to make a buck off of it. (The groups are not mutually exclusive.)
Where would we be if people (And governments) did only things that would bring an immediate and foreseeable profit or benefit? We'd be living in caves and knocking rabbits over the head for supper.
Do you really think we should only do things that produce proven benefit? To be consistent, you'd have to be in favor of de-funding all scientific research because there's never any guarantee that the benefit will be worth the cost.
So heres the question.
Should the government be spending money on things that have a purely scientific benefit, with no KNOWN AND PREDICTABLE return either monetarily or in direct improvement the security the nation or to the improvement of peoples lives?
My answer is that I believe it won't get done otherwise.
Corporations expect to see, and rightfully so, a return on their investment in some time less that a generation or two. So they won't undertake huge programs like that.
At the same time, while we can't guarantee benefits resulting from a space program, we can look in to the past and see that there defiantly have been benefits in many areas, some quite dramatic. I'm not just talking about actual products as benefits. I'm also talking about things you can't touch, like national pride, and inspiration to the younger generations. You don't seem to see any of that. You can deny it all you want, but they are there.
I prefer to have a longer vision, and more hope for the future than that.
Disclaimer: Some portions of this post were copied from a previous post of mine on another thread because I didn't feel like typing them all over again.
Scientific research and space exploration are NOT proper roles of the United States government. And don't give me any BS about "spinoffs" for defense. National defense development, including satellites, missiles, and possible space-based weapons, will receive more focus, and more funding, without some contrived dependency on make-work civilian space pork programs.
Use of public funds for various endeavors is fair game for debate among fair-minded people. You disagree with use of those funds for exploration and that's fair enough. There are any number of things the government spends our collective tax dollars on that I disagree with. We are free to work through our elected representatives to effect changes to those spending decisions. In the end, the representatives of the people will make those decisions. I see no need to make it a Constitutional issue.
My point was that there may be legitimate reasons for expending tax dollars that go beyond just the mundane, unimaginative, everyday issues of bean counting. And no, I'm not talking about "Piss Christ" or any NEA-sponsored nonsense. Let's not even go there. No, I'm talking about things that awaken and empower our national spirit, a longing and sense of reaching beyond ourselves, a way to realize and understand in an intimate and lasting way who we are as a people, and where we may be going as an intelligent species. I know, I know, it costs too much, don't use my tax dollars, blah blah blah. But you know, there are some things that we can't put a price tag on, nor should we try. Because if we do, it becomes yet another commodity to be bought and sold in the marketplace. And I don't want to see our national spirit on sale there.
How about private property rights in outer space? See about that, then the rest would be possible.
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