Geotimes
Web Extra Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Bush retools space program

As the Mars rover Spirit prepares to drive off its platform tonight and into the martian terrain, President Bush prepared the United States to send humans to the red planet and beyond. The president announced today that he would increase NASA's budget in order to forward human space travel, increasing the agency's budget slightly and reorganizing its priorities and programs for space exploration.

"Today we set a new course," Bush said to an audience that included former and current astronauts and members of the press gathered at a news conference held this afternoon at NASA's Washington, D.C., headquarters. "We will give NASA a new focus."

Calling on the spirit of exploration that led Meriwether Lewis and William Clark across the western half of the then-unknown U.S. territories, the president outlined goals for the next two decades. In order to establish sites with potential for human stations and future launches from the moon, he stipulated that NASA will send robot explorers to the moon by 2008. The current Space Shuttle program will be retired by 2010, and by 2014, he charged NASA scientists to develop a new "crew exploration vehicle," which "will be capable of ferrying astronauts and scientists to the International Space Station." Further challenges include moderating the effects of space living on humans.

Bush also pledged to help finish the construction of the International Space Station and invited other countries to partake in the United States' new space initiative. "The vision I've outlined today is a journey, not a race," the president said.

NASA's current budget is $86 billion. "Most of the funding we need for the new endeavors will come from re-allocating $11 billion from within that budget," the president said. He will call on Congress to add approximately another $1 billion over the next five years. President Bush directed NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe to review all programs, and he established a committee to report in the next four months on how to retool the organization.

The president ended by invoking the memory of the lost Challenger and Columbia astronauts (the one year anniversary of the explosion of the Columbia is approaching next month, Feb. 1st). "The legacy of Columbia must carry on for the benefit of our children," Bush said. "Mankind is drawn to the heavens for the same reason we were once drawn to unknown lands and across the sea. We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives and lifts our spirit."

Naomi Lubick

Links:
NASA Web site
White House press release
New York Times coverage
Other news stories through Google

transcript from Los Angeles Times

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