When President Bush announced his new vision for NASA’s space
exploration program on Jan. 14, many questions arose concerning the
expenses, safety and technology necessary to put the plan into
In his speech, Bush outlined a plan for human and robotic space
exploration based on a variety of goals. First, the president said
NASA will complete its work on the International Space Station by
2010. Through this, researchers will be able to better understand
and overcome the effects of human space flight on astronauts.
Next, the United States will begin developing a new spacecraft
called the Crew Exploration Vehicle. This will be capable of
transporting astronauts and scientists to the Moon as early as
2015, with the goal of working there for an extended period of
Lastly, astronauts will use the experience and knowledge gained
on the Moon as a foundation for human missions beyond, beginning
But how probable is this plan?
Roger Culver, an astronomy professor, said that depending on the
time, money and effort the government is willing to put forth, the
plan is probable, but it will take awhile to put into effect.
“(Bush) is emphasizing sending humans to the Moon and eventually
to Mars,” Culver said. “A Mars mission could take two or three
years. During that time you would have to create a reliable
life-support system for the astronauts, which could certainly take
five to 10 years. This plan will likely develop in a slow
Money is also a big issue in this plan. According to NASA
administrators, the proposed budget for 2005 will be $16.2 billion,
which is a 5.6 percent increase from this year’s budget. In future
years, the budget increases will be smaller.
These increases will add up to roughly $1 billion over the next
five years. On top of this, $11 billion will be reallocated from
other NASA programs, giving a total of $12 billion to the space
Channeling money from other NASA programs, including scrapping a
plan for a service call to the Hubble Space Telescope, have also
raised some concerns. Robert Lawrence, a political science
professor, said this proposal is definitely controversial.
“One point suggests with the NASA budget that some programs will
be cut and reduced,” Lawrence said. “This is their way to rearrange
priorities without asking for more money.”
Jonathon Vigh, a graduate student studying atmospheric sciences,
said that the cuts in other programs should cause alarm.
“It really concerns me that the proposal reallocates NASA’s
budget toward the Mars mission,” Vigh said. “NASA’s priority should
be to focus on Earth. We’ve learned so much from the unmanned
missions without spending the money on new engineering and risking
humans in space. In my opinion, we’re not getting much for the
Ron Phillips, an economic professor, said the president would
have to borrow money from future taxpayers to get the funding for
“This plan is economically feasible, but there’s only a limited
amount of money,” Phillips said. “This may require reductions in
other programs and cuts elsewhere. Also the economic debt will be a
problem to face in the future.”
With the upcoming election and the reconstruction of Iraq, some
people have been questioning Bush’s motives.
“This proposal is either bold or silly. It’s hard to fathom the
motivations,” Lawrence said, “Some people suggest that this is a
way to divert attention from the situation in Iraq or prove that
the U.S. is a superpower. I have no idea if that’s the intent.”
Although some people think that continuing exploration of space
is a good idea, others think that there are much greater issues to
be concerned with.
Dena Sturgeon, a senior social work major, said there are many
other programs that could use the money.
“It’s an interesting concept, maybe eventually when the economy
is better,” Sturgeon said, “I don’t think it should be a priority.
Pick a program, we need money in lots of other areas.”
Opportunity, the new rover that recently sent new pictures from
Mars, could also affect this plan.
“The rovers will answer some questions and raise more,” Culver
said, “We’ve only been able to explore a few dozen yards of Mars.
There are many more interesting places to land.”
“This idea hasn’t caught fire yet,” Lawrence said, “If one rover
finds evidence of water or some micro-organism, the public interest
could be rekindled. However, the interest will fall if nothing is
The proposal’s outcome is still in question.
“I don’t know if this will go into effect,” Culver said. “It
depends on the politics of the situation. It’ll definitely be
interesting to see how this unfolds.”