WASHINGTON - President Bush envisioning "new journeys to the worlds beyond our own," unveiled a plan Wednesday to send astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond on missions sure to cost hundreds of billions of dollars and stretch the bounds of technology. He called for a manned lunar landing as early as 2015.
Bush's election-year initiative represents the boldest space goals since John F. Kennedy laid the groundwork for the Apollo program that landed Americans on the moon in 1969.
Intended to inject new life into a space program shattered by last year's loss of the Columbia shuttle and its crew of seven, Bush's proposal faces tough questions in Congress. Many Democrats say the administration should take care of problems at home before setting its sights on costly space initiatives, particularly in the face of budget deficits of about $500 billion.
Some scientists say it would be more efficient and less expensive to use robotic spacecraft instead of manned missions. Bush's father proposed a Mars mission in 1989, but it collapsed when cost estimates hit $400 billion to $500 billion.
In a speech at NASA's headquarters, Bush laid out a timetable for robotic missions to the moon no later than 2008, the first manned flight of a new spacecraft by 2014 and a manned lunar mission as early as 2015 and no later than 2020.
The president did not set a deadline for reaching Mars, and NASA Director Sean O'Keefe, briefing reporters later, said the timing of the mission would depend on the results of studies on the effects of space travel on humans.
Bush said the moon, with a gravity pull one-sixth that of Earth, could be the launching pad for "human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond." He said his goal was to "extend a human presence across our solar system."
Bush's speech put him in the political spotlight in the run-up to Monday's Iowa caucus battle among Democrats who want his job. It was the president's second headline-grabbing announcement in recent days, after his immigration proposal last week.
In vivid terms, Bush portrayed the nation's space program — with its three shuttles grounded by the Columbia accident — as at a standstill. "In the past 30 years, no human being has set foot on another world or ventured farther up into space than 386 miles, roughly the distance from Washington, D.C., to Boston, Mass.," Bush said.
"It is time for America to take the next steps," he said.
In terms of the cost, Bush gave an estimate only for the initial downpayment on his space plan. He said it would cost $12 billion over the next five years, but only $1 billion in new funds. The remainder would come from money reallocated under NASA's five-year budget. Thus, it would be for Bush's successors to figure out how to finance the costliest part of the plan.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who flew on a space shuttle in 1986, questioned whether $1 billion in extra funding would be enough. "You can't go to the moon by 2014 with that," Nelson said.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's plan faces strong scrutiny. "As we go forward with any initiative we have to examine our priorities," she said. "We have serious challenges here on Earth."
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., chairman of the House Science Committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, praised the plan.
"America is not going to remain at peace, and we're not going to remain the most prosperous nation, and we're not going to remain a free nation, unless we remain the technological leader of the world," he said. "And we will not remain the technological leader of the world unless we are the leaders in space."
In his speech, Bush got a high-tech introduction from a beamed video image of astronaut Michael Foale, aboard the International Space Station 240 miles above the Earth.
"I know that I'm just one chapter in an ongoing story of discovery," said Foale, making his sixth trip into space. In the NASA audience sat Eugene A. Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission to the moon in December 1972, the last man to leave his footprint on the lunar surface.
Bush brushed aside arguments that robotic exploration should replace human missions.
"The human thirst for knowledge ultimately cannot be satisfied by even the most vivid pictures or the most detailed measurements," Bush said. "We need to see and examine and touch for ourselves."
An AP-Ipsos poll out Monday found the public evenly split on Bush's plan to build a long-term base on the moon and eventually send astronauts to Mars. That's similar to the way Americans felt more than 35 years ago about the first efforts to land men on the moon.
The poll found that just over half said it would be better to spend the money on programs like education and health care rather than on space research.
"Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn to unknown lands and across the open sea," Bush said "We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey."
Under Bush's plan, the shuttle fleet would be retired by the end of the decade.
NASA would develop and build a new "crew exploration vehicle" to ferry people first to the space station after the shuttles were retired, and then to the moon.
Defending his priorities, Bush said the space program has brought tangible benefits with advances in weather forecasting, communications, computers, search and rescue technology, robotics and electronics.
To carry out his program, Bush formed a new panel, the Commission on the Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy, to advise NASA. Pete Aldridge, a former Air Force secretary, was named to lead the effort.
Bush spoke as NASA engineers in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California were maneuvering the Mars rover toward its first touch of the soil of the red planet. It was supposed to roll off its landing platform early Thursday.
You know, I still haven't made up my mind on this.
On the one hand, my head says no. And I know Smug generally shares this attitude (I think anyway), that the amount of investment required for something like manned missions to the moon just isn't worth it in the long run. Lots of buck for very little bang.
But on the other hand, the kid in me really digs this. There's something about manned missions to space that just really strike at the heart of humanity, I think. And really, to get NASA going again, this is the exact sort of thing that needs to happen. A president making a bold initiative (and then providing the funding to back it up, which remains to be seen considering how Bush has funded previous plans of his).
So, logically I should be against it, I suppose (though there are plenty of good arguments for it...the space program, like the military, yield an awful lot of benefits for the private sector), but mostly, I just can't get over the kid in me that really wants to see this happen.
And you know, I think it helps me understand Bush better. He's a simple sort of guy, but not the boogeyman that the left sometimes makes him out to be. He's a cowboy, he's a kid at heart. That sort of speaks to the heart of his hawkish attitude ("bring them on"), and random stuff like wanting to see illegals taken care of, or man back in space again. I think he wants to return a certain amount of glory to America again.
I dunno. Still thinking on the whole matter. But it certainly is a bold initiative. And with all the space talk of late, thought I'd bring it up.
quote:Originally posted by 3MTA3
This can only be of benefit...in the long, long run it cant not be. Unless you presume were all just going to die in the next 150 yrs or so and then really, whats the use of anything?
I think the counter-argument to that is that it isn't that space exploration is useless, just that manned missions aren't the best way to do that (and some might argue are among the LEAST cost-effective ways to do it).
I generally agree with both your sentiments, though.
While I'm not convinced this is anything other than a political gesture-- I still think this is really fucking cool. I hope he's actually serious about trying to get this done (I'm not really convinced his father ever was). I still think Bush is an idiot, I still don't like most of his foreign policy, but I will give him credit for the last couple moves he's made. As I said, though, I wonder how dedicated he actually is to achieving these goals he's setting.
I agree with PC, the kid in me (not that there is much else) is very fucking excited. Space stations on the Moon, manned missions to Mars. Do it Dubya, create yourself a new Western frontier. I just hope I'm alive to see it really get into full swing.
The counter-arguement isn't necesarrily that these are the less-efficient means of space exploration. Many people geniunely feel that the endevaour is simply unproductive, even a cheap and efficient logistics plan is not worth letting one man go hungry or allowing one hospital to remain unbuilt. I, of course, disagree completely. This is by far more important than about 95% of the things he would hope to accomplish in his term.
Gesture politics. It's time like this I think Bush is a left wing idiot.
Not nearly enough money has been earmarked to manage it according to what the NASA guys were saying on the radio yesterday. Still you can always come cap in hand to the rest of the world and borrow more like you usually do
I saw his speach in the airport. There were a couple guys sitting in an empty gate watching it so I joined them to avoid a couple screaming babies. The two guys laughed when Bush said he wanted a new launch vehicle in six years, "Impossible" they said "That's a lot of overtime." I bit my tongue; NASA has quietly been overseeing private sector development of a handful of new, single stage, reusable launch vehicles. They just need to built. I think this is a great plan, becuase the private companies are better at keeping in budget. Not saying that they won't go massively over, but hopefully the new, mostly privately developed launch vehicle won't hemorage money like the shuttle does.
What's your rambling point, retard? While this will be a rediculously expensive venture, it won't be as insane as the Apollo program, since this space venture can benefit from a lot of existing technoloy, and a private sector that already has substantial experience in space. Apollo had to make up every last detail as it went along.... This won't be so bad.
gesture politics? i'd say senator pelosi *cough* is much more deserving of that slam than bush, here...
PC, you are right such a mission would be a jolt in the arm to people like lockheed and boeing. i think boeing alone has laid off about 30,000 lay offs in the past few years. it would also benefit a host of collateral companies/industries and even US education grants. america is a service-based economy, but one area we can grow is in aerospace tech. nevertheless, you are more right that it's just incredibly cool. the baby boomers went to the moon-- amidst the same objections. we can return there and maybe even go to mars. america has been built on those who dreamt big & went after those dreams. even when we've been down, it's those dreams that have brought us back. bush is laying ground work which, again after 9/11, reaffirms america's ideals in a way, as you say-- just speaks to all of us.
since Bush is talking about a $1 billion new fund expenditure at this point as opposed to $400 billion, the scuttlebutt from the democrats here in iowa strikes me as much more "gesture politics" than bush's actions...
I believe Haliburton (isn't Cheney the CEO?) won a no bid contract to do some drilling on Mars. But I doubt there is any oil there. It seems as though there might be some water deep down.
I still say that ferrying human bodies millions of miles about is little more than a symbolic gesture. (even if we find water AND microbrial life on Mars- so what?)
That money should be used to build better space telescopes.
quote:Originally posted by Paint CHiPs Thus, it would be for Bush's successors to figure out how to finance the costliest part of the plan.
Bush sets up the program, gets the polotical kudos, then the poor slob who takes over after 2008 gets to sort out the budgetary mess of the program.
Cheap political stunt.
It is cool, but this is never going to happen. I believe the only way a manned base on the moon, a mission to mars etc will be achieved is everyone (and I mean EVERYONE - NASA, ESA, China, Russia, Japan, India, Israel, Pakistan) with the remotest space ambitions to band together financially and scientifically to achieve this for all mankind.
Rather than improving the US' aerospace industries with public money and 'reestablishing the values of the US' this could be a genuine focus for the whole world community to work towards a common goal, and maybe (just maybe) feel a bit better about each other. Not just for the USA and the legacy of the "idiot son of an asshole."
Just a pipe dream I guess, but then again, so was going to Mars.
Last edited by Weasel Spoor on 01-15-2004 at 11:14 AM
I read things like this and I think that there is something seriously wrong with our space program, or us in general. It makes me not want to fund it any further.
quote:Pictures confirming the "egress" came back to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. at about 5 a.m. ET (1000 GMT) Thursday. Engineers cheered loudly and celebrated the landing by playing the hip-hop tune, "Who Let the Dogs Out?"