Obama NASA plan: Mars shot as next generation's Apollo mission
According to President Obama, NASA needs a goal beyond the space station and the moon for human spaceflight to inspire the nation as the Apollo mission did. He has chosen Mars.
(Page 2 of 3)
By 2025, the president's approach envisions sending the first humans to visit an asteroid. By the mid 2030s, "I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And landing on Mars will follow," he said.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Referring to arguments that the moon should be the next immediate destination – a destination US astronauts have reached six times already – he explained that "what we're looking for is not just to continue on the same path; we want to leap into the future. We want major breakthroughs, a transformative agenda for NASA."
For many of the administrations critics, the speech did little to mollify their anger.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R) of Utah, where Alliant Techsystems is a prime contractor for the Ares 1 rocket NASA was building under the Constellation program, accused the administration "of relinquishing our position as the global leader in space and missile defense to Russia, China, and India."
Rep. Bill Posey (R) of Florida gave a nod to the president's willlingness to visit the Kennedy Space Center. But he added that the president's effort to end the shuttle program within the next eight months "is deeply disappointing to me."
A fresh vision?
But others applaud what they see as a fresh vision for the US human spaceflight program.
The speech "was truly inspiring," says Louis Friedman, founder and executive director of the Planetary Society in Pasadena, Calif. Before founding the society, Dr. Freidman worked for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was deeply involved in several pioneering robotic space missions.
"No president since John Kennedy has gone out on the road to sell his space program," he says. "This is American leadership, to do things that have never been done before."
Norman Augustine – who headed the presidential commission whose "flexible path" option the president has elected to follow – noted after the president spoke that during the panel's public hearings, members heard from young people who referred to a return to the moon as "my grandfather's space program."
Indeed, the criticisms from many Apollo-era astronauts of decisions being taken by or supported by more-recent astronauts – both on the Augustine panel as well as the current head of NASA – give the appearance that a generational tug of war is underway over the program's future.