The Vision For Space Exploration

On 14 January 2004, President George W. Bush announced the New Vision for Space Exploration at NASA Headquarters. In his opening remarks, the president cited the successes of America's space program over the previous two decades but stated that the country had to resume its manned exploration of space.

"Yet for all these successes, much remains for us to explore and to learn,'' President Bush stated. "In the past thirty years, no human being has set foot on another world, or ventured farther upward into space than 386 miles - roughly the distance from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Massachusetts. America has not developed a new vehicle to advance human exploration in space in nearly a quarter-century. It is time for America to take the next steps.

"Today I announce a new plan to explore space and extend a human presence across our solar system. We will begin the effort quickly, using existing programs and personnel. We'll make steady progress - one mission, one voyage, one landing at a time.''

In January 2004, President George W. Bush announced the New Vision for Space Exploration at NASA Headquarters. The President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy held public meetings in major cites around the U.S. to garner public opinion and suggestions. The Commission's report, A Journey to Inspire, Innovate and Discover, was used by NASA to redirect its space exploration priorities within its operating budget and set America on a course back to the Moon and eventually on to Mars. (NASA)

The president went on to state that the United States intended to complete the International Space Station by 2010 and meet its obligations to its international partners. To do so, the Shuttle had to be returned to flight according to the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. The Shuttle's chief purpose would be to complete the ISS by 2010, and then the Shuttle would be retired. The second goal the president announced was to develop and test a new spacecraft - the Crew Exploration Vehicle. While it would be capable of docking with the ISS, its primary goal was to take crews to the Moon and later to Mars. It would be the first spacecraft of its kind since the Apollo Command Module.

"Our third goal is to return to the Moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions beyond,'' the president announced with emphasis. "Beginning no later than 2008, we will send a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface to research and prepare for future human exploration. Using the Crew Exploration Vehicle, we will undertake extended human missions to the Moon as early as 2015, with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods. Eugene Cernan, who is with us today - the last man to set foot on the lunar surface - said this as he left: 'We leave as we came, and God willing as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.' America will make those words come true.''

President Bush went on to outline the benefits that would come from this new era of human space exploration. He announced the creation of a commission of private and public sector experts to make recommendations to the president and to NASA. He also announced a modest increase in NASA's budget and reallocation of $11 billion of its five-year budget projection to fund the new proposed space exploration goals. Then, drawing from President John Kennedy's speech from 1961, President Bush said:

''Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn into unknown lands and across the open sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives, and lifts our national spirit. So let us continue the journey. May God bless.''

President Bush issued an executive order on 27 January 2004 establishing the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. The Commission would have ninety days to conduct the necessary meetings, hearings and research, collect its findings, and then report those findings to the president through the NASA Administrator within 120 days. The Commission Charter stated that it would examine and make recommendations regarding:

• A science research agenda to be conducted on the Moon and other destinations as well as human and robotic science activities that advance our capacity to achieve the Policy

• The exploration of technologies, demonstrations and strategies, including the use of lunar and other in situ natural resources, that could be used for sustainable human and robotic exploration

• Criteria that could be used to select future destinations for human exploration

• Long-term organization options for managing implementation of space exploration activities

• The most appropriate and effective roles for potential private sector and international participants in implementing the Policy

• Methods for optimizing space exploration activities to encourage the interests of America's youth in studying and pursuing careers in mathematics, science and engineering

• Management of the implementation of the Policy within available resources

The Commission's plan was to hold public meetings in Washington, D.C., Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia, Galileo Academy of Science and Technology in San Francisco, California and the Asia Society in New York City. The Commission would also conduct fact-finding trips to various NASA centers, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and the Robert H. Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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