Ambitious Plan to Visit Moon And Mars Unveiled
After weeks of
speculation, President Bush officially unveiled his new and rather
ambitious space initiative on Wednesday. Reminiscent of John F.
Kennedy's famous space-launching speech, Bush outlined his
administration's goals to send human beings back to the Moon and
eventually set foot on Mars.
The President called on Congress to increase funding for NASA by
nearly a billion dollars annually over the next five years, while
radically transforming the space agency's manned space flight goals
from research-based low Earth program to a new aggressive plan for
interplanetary travel. The nine-page executive policy directive was
unveiled Wednesday afternoon by the president during an address at
NASA headquarters in Washington.
NASA's new master plan is broken down in three phases.
- Retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet by 2010.
- Begin manned missions to the Moon in by 2020.
- Launch the first Mars manned mission by early 2030.
current Space Shuttle fleet would be retired in 2010 after it
completes construction of the International Space Station (ISS).
The new space plan would have robots visiting the moon by 2008 and
humans walking on its surface by 2020. The Moon missions would
explore colonization and other projects that will eventually
support the most ambitious goal of all: the first manned mission to
Mars in 2030.
NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe expressed excitement about the
new direction the space agency would take, but warned that many
steps are needed before ever launching a manned mission to the
Moon. For starters, a new space vehicle -- capable of flying out of
a low-Earth orbit -- would need to be constructed. Designated the
Crew Exploration Vehicle, the new craft would be designed for a
very specific mission and would not resemble the thirty-plus year
old shuttles. "It would look totally different than the Space
Shuttle", he explained.
NASA officials explained the current Space Shuttle fleet is
limited to low Earth orbit -- no higher than about 300 miles above
the surface -- and can stay in space for slightly longer than two
weeks. Like the Apollo spacecraft, the new space vehicle would be
specifically designed to revisit our own natural satellite, the
Not wanting to minimize the efforts of the ISS program,
President Bush emphasized the US would continue its work alongside
a host of other nations who have invested in its development.
The Bush plan calls for
NASA to fulfill its obligation to 15 other partner nations to
complete the ISS in the next five to six years.
"The United States remains committed to the International Space
Station," Bush reassured the gathering of space officials and media
On a related space note, the Spirit rover, which recently landed
on Mars, is beginning to venture onto the Martian landscape. Its
emergence from the landing platform was delayed for a few days, as
NASA engineers worked on moving one of the protective airbags that
blocked its path.