From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul> Date: Wed, 04 Feb 2004 16:48:47 -0800 Fwd Date: Thu, 05 Feb 2004 07:55:39 -0500 Subject: NASA Chief Plans New Space Quests Source: SFGate.com - San Francisco, CA http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/02/04/MNGFU4OFNH1.DTL&type=science Wednesday, February 4, 2004 NASA chief plans new space quests Humans may return to moon by 2015 NASA's proposed budget should increase by about 5 percent per year over the next three years, and would lay the groundwork for returning robots to the lunar surface within five years, and perhaps humans by 2015, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said Tuesday. If approved by Congress, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 would be $16.2 billion, a 5.6 percent increase over the $15.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2004. By far the single biggest budget change is a proposed $70 million study of the feasibility of renewed lunar exploration. That outlay would lay the groundwork for renewed lunar robotic landers in 2009, followed by human flights "as early as 2015," according to NASA's budget statement. Expected annual spending for lunar exploration should increase to $420 million by fiscal year 2009, the statement says. Also, the proposed budget line for Mars exploration research in fiscal year 2005 is $691 million, compared with $595 million this year. Last month, President Bush announced an ambitious plan to return Americans to the moon in the next decade and to head for Mars after that. But it faces considerable opposition on Capitol Hill from Republicans worried about the costs and Democrats who want the money spent on domestic programs. In his national televised hookup with journalists, O'Keefe defended the plan. "This (space) exploration vision is affordable, fiscally responsible and sustainable," he said. "As the president stated in his (Jan. 14) speech, we are embarking on a journey, not a race." O'Keefe gave no specifics about how the budget increase might affect NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Even so, officials there are optimistic that Ames will play an important role in helping to fulfill the president's vision for space exploration. For one thing, a key goal of Mars exploration is to determine whether the Red Planet ever had life, or can shed light on the evolution of life in our planetary system. That will tally neatly with Ames' focus on astrobiology, the scientific study of extraterrestrial life, its origins and evolution. "Our scientific focus is squarely in the middle of this (presidential) vision," said Ames Director Scott Hubbard. At an all-hands meeting with Ames employees after Bush's speech, the staff was "very positive, excited," Hubbard said. O'Keefe also said he expects a substantial savings -- more than $4 billion annually -- from the phase-out of the technically troubled space shuttle fleet over the next decade.
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