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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Bush Announces New Space Initiative

President Bush's speech.
President Bush's speech.
Credit: NASA
Today at 3:30 PM EST, President Bush announced over live television his proposal for NASA's future: "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.... The moon is a logical step toward further progress and achievement."

Bush's space initiative includes the following:

2008 - Construction of a new space plane (a "crew exploration vehicle") to take crews to and from the International Space Station and the moon.
2008 - Launch of robotic missions to the moon "to research and prepare for future human exploration."
2010 - Completion of the ISS.
2010 - Retirement of the space shuttle.
2014 - Launch of a manned mission in the crew exploration vehicle.
2015 - Undertaking of extended manned missions to the moon, "with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods of time."

The President explained that missions to Mars could be reduced in cost by being launched from the moon. "With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration: human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond."

Bush increased NASA's funding by five percent to nearly $16 billion dollars a year. Although NASA's budget was doubled after John F. Kennedy announced the Apollo program forty years ago, Bush and NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe feel that the money merely needs refocused. "Our first goal is to complete the International Space Station by 2010. We will finish what we have started." In any case, more research must be made before any steps are taken. "I'll also form a commission of private- and public-sector experts to advise on implementing the vision that I've outlined today. This commission will report to me within four months of its first meeting." Bush named former Secretary of the Air Force Pete Aldrich as chair of the commission.

A transcript of the President's speech can be found here.

- posted by Alex @ 20:03 EST