Bush: Back to the moon by 2015

National Aeronautic and Space Administration

At a cost of $12 billion over the next five years, President Bush outlined his space exploration plan today, which includes a new space vehicle to return American astronauts to the moon as early as 2015.

Bush also confirmed that a series of robotic missions, similar to the current Mars Exploration Rover program, would explore the lunar surface by 2008. The Spirit rover has generated images that billions of Internet users have viewed on NASA's Web site.

"It is time for America to take the next steps" to return America to manned space flight, which has been on hold since the February 2003 Columbia shuttle tragedy, Bush said.

His main goals for space exploration include:

-- Completing work on the International Space Station by 2010.

-- Developing and testing a new manned vehicle, the crew exploration vehicle, by 2008 and conducting the first manned missions by 2014.

-- Returning to the moon as early as 2015 and no later than 2020.

While calling the quest to explore space "part of our character" as Americans, Bush acknowledged that his plan includes using the moon as a steppingstone for "human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond."

To support those goals, Bush said most of the added funding for exploration would come from reallocating $11 billion from NASA's five-year budget of $86 billion.

Bush will also request an additional $1 billion in the fiscal 2005 budget for NASA's existing five-year plan, at an average of $200 million per year. From the current 2004 level of $15.4 billion, the president's proposal would increase NASA's budget by an average of 5 percent per year in the next three years and 1 percent in each of the following two years.

Bush also stressed that the new crew exploration vehicle is vital to his plans and said the space shuttle program will be retired by 2010, after nearly 30 years of service.

"Human beings are headed into the cosmos," Bush said, and he directed NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe to review current space flight and exploration programs and direct them toward the president's goals.

Bush also formed a Commission on the Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy to advise NASA on the long-term implementation of the his goals.

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