Bush to Announce Lunar and Martian Missions

From the Associated Press:

President Bush will announce plans next week to send Americans to Mars and establish a permanent human presence on the moon, senior administration officials said Thursday night.

Bush won’t propose sending Americans to Mars anytime soon; rather, he envisions preparing for the mission more than a decade from now, one official said.

This is great news. The US has stayed off the moon for far too long, and setting up a human presence on our nearest neighbor is the next logical step from the International Space Station.

The last time we went to the moon our country was able to come up with many great inventions, such as the microwave. To those that say we can't do it since we are in the midst of the war on terror I recommend they remember that we were in the midst of Vietnam when we stepped foot on the moon.

This move will not only help invigorate NASA, but also our country to new heights. This is also a step in the right direction for our space policy, one that has moved forward, but seemed stalled. Most victories in the past decades really paled in comparison to landing on our nearest neighbor.

The plan does change the whole direction of the space policy in exchange for moving in the direction I feel NASA should have went toward all along, and also eliminates all programs except those that move us toward these goals. The plan is also cautious, attempting baby steps first toward the ultimate goal of finally landing on mars, and later other worlds.

Under the current plan, sources said, the first lunar landings would carry only enough resources to test advanced equipment that would be employed on voyages beyond the moon. Because the early moon missions would use existing rockets, they could deliver only small equipment packages. So the initial, return-to-the-moon missions essentially would begin where the Apollo landings left off -- a few days at a time, growing gradually longer. The human landings could be both preceded and accompanied by robotic vehicles.

The first manned Mars expeditions would attempt to orbit the red planet in advance of landings -- much as Apollo 8 and 10 orbited the moon but did not land. The orbital flights would conduct photo reconnaissance of the Martian surface before sending landing craft, said sources familiar with the plan's details.

Along with new spacecraft, NASA would develop other equipment needed to allow humans to explore other worlds, including advanced spacesuits, roving vehicles and life support equipment.

As part of its new space package, sources said, the administration will convene an unusual presidential commission to review NASA's plans as they unfold. The group would consider such factors as the design of the spacecraft; the procedure for assembly, either in Earth orbit or lunar orbit; the individual elements the new craft should contain, such as capsules, supply modules, landing vehicles and propellant stages, and the duration and number of missions and size of crews.

Sources said Bush will direct NASA to scale back or scrap all existing programs that do not support the new effort. Further details about the plan and the space agency's revised budget will be announced in NASA briefings next week and when the president delivers his FY 2005 budget to Congress.

Posted by at January 8, 2004 11:22 PM