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Bush Plans Science Base on the Moon

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - President Bush is planning a permanent science base for astronauts on the moon and, in what would be an even greater leap for mankind, human voyages to Mars, according to senior administration officials.

The president wants to aggressively reinvigorate the space program, still reeling from the Columbia tragedy nearly one year ago, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan confirmed that Bush would deliver a speech Wednesday describing his vision of the long-term direction of the space program, but he did not reveal what Bush would say.

``The president is strongly committed to the exploration of space,'' McClellan said Friday.

A major question is how to pay for an expensive space initiative while the nation is struggling with record budget deficits and the high costs of the war against terrorism.

McClellan said that the White House budget office was involved in the administration's space review, and that Bush will ``put forth a responsible budget that meets our highest priorities while working to hold the line of spending elsewhere in the budget.''

A Nobel-winning physicist who investigated the shuttle accident is among those who would rather see more affordable robots - rather than astronauts - exploring the lunar and martian surfaces. He points to NASA's Spirit rover newly arrived at Mars.

``The cost of a manned enclave on the moon, I think, is going to make the space station look cheap. That's the only good thing about it,'' said Stanford University's Douglas Osheroff.

In any event, ``I think we're still 30 years from going to Mars and if there's any reason to do that, I don't know,'' Osheroff said.

Bush does not intend to propose sending Americans to Mars anytime soon, but instead envisions preparing for a Mars expedition more than a decade from now, one administration official said.

NASA's chief spokesman, Glenn Mahone, would not divulge any details Friday.

``We're not going to pre-empt the president,'' he said. ``But we're excited about the news of the announcement next week and what it means for the future direction of NASA.'' He said the announcement will be made in Washington.

The White House has been looking for a new revitalizing role for NASA for months, with Vice President Dick Cheney leading the interagency task force since summer. The speculation over a major space initiative began heating up in early December.

Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, a member of the House Science Committee, welcomed the news that Bush would be making an announcement about space.

Hall said he has long been trying to get the president more interested in space exploration. The president never went to Johnson Space Center in Houston while serving as Texas governor; in fact, last February's memorial service for the seven Columbia astronauts was his first visit.

Bush's fresh interest in space happens to coincide with an election year. A new bold space initiative, it is thought, could excite Americans.

``I had the feeling the last 2 1/2 years people would rather make a trip to the grocery store than a trip to the moon because of the economy,'' Hall said. ``As things are turning around, we need to stay in touch with space'' and the science spinoffs it provides.

It was the Columbia accident that helped force a discussion of where NASA should venture beyond the three remaining space shuttles and the international space station. The panel that investigated the disaster called for a clearly defined long-term mission - a national vision for space that has been missing for three decades.

Astronauts last walked on the moon in 1972; in all, 12 men trod the lunar surface over a 3 1/2-year period. This time, the president favors a permanent station, administration officials said.

Bush's father, on the 20th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, made a similar call for lunar colonies and a Mars expedition. But the plan was prohibitively expensive - an estimated $400 billion to $500 billion - and went nowhere.

No one knows what the new venture might cost or how NASA would pay for it.

House Science Committee spokeswoman Heidi Tringe said lawmakers on the panel had yet to be briefed on the specifics.

Earlier this week, Bush put in a congratulatory call to officials in charge of NASA's latest Mars rover. He called the Spirit rover's successful landing a ``reconfirmation of the American spirit of exploration.'' Another rover is due to arrive at the red planet in two weeks.

Many space buffs see the moon as a necessary place to test the equipment and techniques that would be needed by astronauts on Mars. It's closer, just three days away versus six months away for the red planet.

Visionaries say observatories could be built on the moon and mining camps could gather helium-3 for conversion into fuel for use back on Earth.

Others, however, contend that astronauts should make a beeline to Mars.

Still others, including John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, believes the nation should complete and fully maximize the international space station before dashing anywhere else.

Sure, I am all for space exploration, but I just hate the idea of so much money going somewhere where there is no way of knowing if it will do the citizens of the US any good, when it could be used for stuff like medicare, medicaid, helping those less fortunate. Maybe I am a cynic in my old age
post #2 of 13
I for one am thrilled that there is a plan to reinvigorate the space program. In it's entire history the US has spent less on space programs than one year's expendatures on the Welfare program, yet the space program actually provides returns that more than compensate for the expendatures.

Contrary to the critics who claim we are "spending money in space", the reality is we spend money on pure research right here on the ground, which provides huge technological advances. Here's a short list of just a few items that came directly from space research: PCs, Communication protocols (that led to the internet), Cellular technology, velcro, microchips, Sonograms, MRIs, and the list goes on and on and on and on...

And that doesn't even begin to look at the direct advantages in improved communications and weather prediction (including tropical storm tracking) - which has saved many thousands of lives. Satellite geological mapping has provided great leaps in the potential to predict earthquakes (still not fully mature technology) and volcanic eruptions - which also predicts tsunami activity.

Lunar research alone has provided major advances in the understanding of earth and solar system origins, which has a real return in an understanding of planet activity.

IMO claims to not fund the space program and instead to pay for current government "charity" is like saying get rid of eductation to pay for a cheese giveaway. I strongly disagree with this type of mentality.

post #3 of 13
I am thrilled that the space program is moving ahead, I have always been a supporter.

But I can't help but thinking, for now, I'd just settle for putting Bush on the moon!
post #4 of 13

I am right there with you on every word, George. The cost of the US space program has paid us back tenfold. Add to that the sheer knowledge we gain as a civilization. Plus I have a son whose dream is to work for NASA (gets it from his mother, he does).
post #5 of 13
They were taking sign ups for people to move to the moon in 30 years. They were to live in a biodome a year before, and not be able to leave the moon for 2 years. It was part of this space initiative but now the sign up is gone. It was at www.nasa.gov/peopletothemoon when it was working.

I didn't get to sign up b/c it was down (apparently it wasn't supposed to be up yet) by the time my roommate (whose friend is an intern at nasa) told me about it.

They were accepting US citizens 24-40something. I hope they put the sign up back (and I get in - they have are excepting a limited number) b/c I'd love to live on the moon. I don't know about 30 years from now, but you don't have to go. The government will pay you to live there though.

This is exciting to me b/c I feel we are so far behind where we should be, space exploration/knowledge wise.
post #6 of 13
"President Bush is said to be on the verge of announcing plans to build a permanent science base for men on the moon that could serve as a steppingstone for sending astronauts ultimately on to Mars. "

Here is a link to the whole article:

Anyway, IMO the man now lost it completely!! This should be the least important thing his mind Howabout straightning things out here in earth first, like getting our people home safe, like taking care of the elderly. He just makes me sooooooo furious!
post #7 of 13
Originally posted by Hell603
Anyway, IMO the man now lost it completely!! This should be the least important thing his mind Howabout straightning things out here in earth first, like getting our people home safe, like taking care of the elderly. He just makes me sooooooo furious!
You said it. Our news put it this way: Bush, like his father before him, wants to be Kennedy. While I'm sure the people at NASA are thrilled, I don't see the purpose of spending so much money when it is really required for other things.
post #8 of 13
How about whittling down the astronomical national debt before spending more money? I am all in favor of the space program, but first things first. We have so many people out of work, so many people without health insurance, so many problems with the education system. These things should take priority.
post #9 of 13
I merged the two threads that are on the same topic.
post #10 of 13
valanhb: Sorry did not see the first thread!
post #11 of 13
What about paying the debt owed to the United Nations?

I'm all for the advancement of any scientific initiative. However, we do now have the technology available to send probes to the moon and to Mars. Unmanned missions are cheaper.

Manned missions to Mars are going to make the current cost look like short change.

Continue to fund the program, but don't waste money. Science is the art of minimalism, not grandiose displays.
post #12 of 13
I am also in favor of scientific progress. As some people have already mentioned, we have many things here on earth to deal with that seem so much more pressing. We have a tremendous debt, unemployment problems, millions without affordable medical care, etc.

What about spending some money on exploring the rain forest and all the potential there. With so many plants and animals, there must be cures for all kinds of diseases, and other types of scientific info waiting to be discovered.
post #13 of 13
He's just looking for another place to invade
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