NASA has unveiled plans for crew and launch vehicles to return humans to the moon as the first steps toward building an outpost there and eventually traveling to Mars. NewsHour correspondent Tom Bearden takes a closer look at NASA's space vision.
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Now, the mission of NASA. The space agency announced today that it plans to launch the latest shuttle mission next week. But even as NASA prepares for another launch, it's making plans for a very different future.
NewsHour correspondent Tom Bearden has our Science Unit report.
TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:
The space shuttle, the icon and workhorse of America's human space program, is just three years from retirement, so NASA is now looking to the future, planning a whole new chapter in manned spaceflight, a whole new fleet of rockets and crew capsules, and a demanding new mission to send astronauts back to the Moon and eventually to mount a mission to Mars. It's a vision that was laid out by President Bush in 2004.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: We will build new ships to carry man forward into the universe, to gain a new foothold on the moon, and to prepare for new journeys to worlds beyond our own.
NASA is currently designing the vehicles that the agency hopes will put astronauts back on the moon by 2020, almost 50 years after Neil Armstrong's "giant leap for mankind." Jeff Hanley manages NASA's program to develop new manned spaceflight systems.
JEFF HANLEY, NASA:
Mars is the edge of the edge of the frontier. And the frontier is where we really test the limits of human endurance and really push technology to the extent of being able to improve life back here for the rest of the planet's inhabitants.
But NASA's history is littered with ambitious programs that have been cancelled because of technical challenges and funding problems. Over a billion dollars was spent on an earlier project to replace the shuttle, dubbed VentureStar, before that program was killed in 2001. The new rockets and manned spacecraft will cost $104 billion according to NASA Director Michael Griffin, the man who has to persuade Congress to spend the money.
MICHAEL GRIFFIN, NASA Administrator:
I hope to convince the Congress that that request is worth honoring and that NASA is a good place for them to spend their money, but this is a democratic, representative government, and we have absolutely no guarantee from year to year that any request of any type will be honored.