"This puts a timeline on it and challenges people to meet that timeline, much as President Kennedy did in 1963 when he said we'd put a man on the moon by the end of the decade." A local astronaut reacts to President Bush's pledge to push the limits of the final frontier.
On Wednesday, the president pledged to go “where no man has gone before.” He wants to build a permanent base on the moon and to someday, launch a manned mission to Mars. It would be the first time an American has walked on the moon since 1972. And it would also be the first-ever human voyage to the red planet.
The ambitious proposal is modeled, in part, after the 1960's Apollo program. It comes with an extra $775-million a year for NASA, one of the few agencies to get a spending increase.
Many people in the Pikes Peak area watched as the president gave NASA its new mission. The Space Foundation, headquartered in Colorado Springs, calls it a bold vision, while a local astronaut says the plan is timely and inspiring.
"Human beings are designed to push the boundaries." Bob Stewart knows about pushing farther. He flew two missions on both Space Shuttles Challenger and Atlantis in the 1980's. And he says this new American mission will inspire. "It will give, particularly the young people, something to look up to---something to look forward."
After watching the speech, the vice president of the Space Foundation says inspiration is important because of the aging work force in the aerospace industry. "I think it's going to motivate another generation. Our education department is excited and thrilled at what they heard today," says Steve Eisenhart.
The president's plan has the International Space Station complete and the shuttles retired by 2010. Then, a new space vehicle will be flying by 2014. Man will return to the moon again in 2020. And launching from a “moon base,” astronauts will fly to Mars.
"There's that mystique that gravitates and pulls people together and motivates people together," says Eisenhart.
Stewart says it's risky... But we've never turned away from exploration. "Wish I was 30 years younger so I could go. I think to be the first person on Mars would be the most thrilling thing in the world. Or out-of-this-world, I should say."
Some critics say the plan is too expensive, but the Space Foundation says denying the space mission will not fix the federal budget situation, and the world will get vast benefits from the plan.