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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2003 > Dec > Dec 4

Bush To Announce US Return To Moon

From: William Wise <w.wise@mac.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Dec 2003 08:53:37 -0500
Fwd Date: Thu, 04 Dec 2003 19:32:55 -0500
Subject: Bush To Announce US Return To Moon


Source: The National Review

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/powell200312030858.asp


December 03, 2003

Milky Way Days
Returning to the new frontier

By Dennis E. Powell

When President Bush delivers a speech recognizing the centenary
of heavier-than-air-powered flight December 17, it is expected
that he will proffer a bold vision of renewed space flight, with
at its center a return to the moon, perhaps even establishment
of a permanent presence there. If he does, it will mean that he
has decided the United States should once again become a space-
faring nation. For more than 30 years America's manned space
program has limited itself to low Earth orbit; indeed, everyone
under the age of 31 =97 more than 125 million Americans =97 was born
since an American last set foot on the moon.

The speech will come at a time when events are converging to
force some important decisions about the future of American
efforts in space. China has put a man in orbit, plans a launch
of three Sinonauts together, and has announced its own lunar
program. The space shuttle is grounded, and its smaller sibling,
the "orbital space plane," may not be built. The International
Space Station, behind schedule, over budget, and of limited
utility, has been scaled back post-Columbia.

The content of the speech does not appear to be in doubt; the
only question is timing. While those who have formulated it have
argued that it be delivered on the anniversary of the Wright
Brothers' first powered flight, there exists a slight
possibility that it will instead be incorporated in the State of
the Union address at the end of January. This has its own, less
triumphant, significance, which is in the form of a chilling
coincidence. Every American who has died in a spacecraft has
done so within one calendar week: The Apollo 204 fire on January
27, 1967; theChallenger disaster on January 28, 1986; and the
loss of Columbia on February 1, 2003.

If the president goes ahead with the plan to announce an
ambitious new program to carry Americans beyond Earth's
immediate gravitational pull, he will argue that the new lunar
explorations are justified not only for what they themselves
might produce but also as a means of developing the technology
and skills necessary for a mission to Mars, which is expected to
be mentioned, though in less-specific terms, in the address.

Observers might note a familiar ring to the proposal. On July
20, 1989, President George H. W. Bush marked the 20th
anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing with a speech at
the National Air and Space Museum in Washington in which he
called for a permanent American presence on the moon and,
ultimately, a mission to Mars.

That address led to the formation of a group called the "Space
Exploration Initiative," headed by Vice President Quayle and
NASA Administrator Richard Truly, which in the spring of 1991
released a report, "America at the Threshold." It set a long-
term goal of landing Americans on Mars, with space activities in
the interim leading up to that goal. First, it recommended,
would be "Space Station Freedom" =97 now the ISS =97 followed by a
return to the moon, in large measure to develop and test systems
for keeping people alive on a Mars journey. The development of
rocket boosters more powerful than the mighty Saturn V that
lifted Apollo astronauts to the moon would be necessary, the
report said, as would development of nuclear systems for
providing power aboard in-transit spacecraft, and nuclear-
powered rockets, to be employed outside Earth's atmosphere,
where they could be used on long missions without the need to
carry enormous supplies of conventional rocket propellant. None
of the recommendations was carried out as envisioned at the
time; the only one that got off the ground at all is the space
station.

The president's speech could breathe new life into a moribund
space program whose recent history has been beset by
disappointment and failure. The space shuttle proved neither as
reliable or as inexpensive as its proponents had promised. In 18
years of flight (the shuttle was grounded for 30 months
following the Challenger disaster, and has been grounded since
the loss of Columbia February 1), half of the original shuttle
fleet has been lost to catastrophic failure, along with 14
astronauts. The cost of a shuttle mission has hovered around
$500 million despite early claims that it would be much less and
would allow payloads to be carried aloft for as little as $50
per pound. The launch schedule has been unreliable, with many
space customers wondering if their satellites would ever get to
orbit; in some cases satellites have remained on the ground so
long that their power supplies ran down and had to be replaced
before launch. The shuttle program has been so frustrating to
scientists that it was characterized by Bruce Murray, former
head of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as "a giant WPA in the
sky."

Some critics say the space station offers little or nothing
more, with a far-higher price tag. It is "international" as to
the origin of some of its parts and some of its crew and, while
the shuttle is grounded, the craft used to ferry the maintenance
crews and supplies, but most of it is paid for by the United
States. Some critics have argued that it is less a space station
than an extension of the State Department.

Charles Krauthammer has noted that an orbiting United Nations is
unlikely to be any less foolish than one fixed on planet Earth.
"The moon and Mars are beckoning," he wrote in January, 2000.
"So why are we spending so much of our resources building a
tinker-toy space station? In part because, a quarter-century
late, we still need something to justify the shuttle. Yet the
space station's purpose has shrunk to almost nothing. No one
takes seriously its claims to be a platform for real science."
Establishment of a permanent moon base and research and
engineering work toward a flight to Mars would certainly
replenish the idea of a space program engaged in real
exploration.

Whether a return to the moon would spark the public's
imagination as it did in the 1960s is unknown. The world was
transfixed July 20, 1969, as Apollo 11 landed and Neil Armstrong
became the first man to stand on a celestial body other than
Earth. But public and political enthusiasm for the moon soon
waned. There were five more landings; the final three lunar
shots were canceled. The last moon flight was in December 1972.
No human has achieved escape velocity since.

A new space initiative would face numerous hurdles, including
congressional Democrats who in the present political climate
would be likely to challenge a presidential declaration that the
sky is blue. Additionally, congressional distrust of NASA is
vigorous on both sides of the aisle following the Columbia
accident. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R., N.Y.), and Rep. Ralph
Hall, (D., Tex.), recently asked that NASA stop work on the $13
billion "orbital space plane," a smaller, cheaper space shuttle,
until Congress and the president agree on NASA's goals. Others
in Congress have argued that the space shuttle should remain on
the ground permanently. The fact that a revamped space program
would employ many people =97 especially in places such as Silicon
Valley, where unemployment among engineers is high =97 might blunt
much criticism, however.

There are ideas and proposals that could offset concerns as to
the value of returning to the moon and, perhaps, traveling
beyond. Geologists are eager to take lunar-core samples, which
could tell much about the solar system's past and how the moon
itself was formed. It has recently been suggested that sunlight
collected on the moon and beamed to Earth could provide a no-
pollution source of power. Bill McInnis, a leading NASA engineer
before he resigned in despair over shuttle-safety issues and
ultimately took his own life, long lobbied for a return to the
moon and talked of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence
and the folly of putting our antennae on Earth. "The signals
we're looking for are so weak that the effects of somebody
turning on a light a hundred miles away are stronger," he said.
"The place to do it, the place to be free of Earthbound
interference =97 that's the other side of the moon. The moon is
the ultimate space station, it is where we can really learn
things." Certainly, long-term lunar experience would facilitate
a trip to Mars.

NASA's budget has been far short of lavish since the last time
the agency was aiming for the moon. The president has remarked
to members of the White House space group that he does not favor
a huge increase in spending for NASA projects. Whether he has
changed his mind, and the extent to which he is willing to sell
an ambitious new program of space exploration remains to be
seen. If Bush does deliver the speech as planned, it would be
another opportunity for him to finish business left pending when
his father left office a decade ago.

=97 Dennis E. Powell is a freelance writer, currently at work on a
history of the space-shuttle program.