President George W. Bush announced a new vision for U.S. space exploration. The plan calls for manned landings on the moon no later than 2020. It will be the first return to the lunar surface since 1972.
The ultimate goal, says President Bush, is to enable future exploration of Mars and beyond:
“We have undertaken space travel because the desire to explore and understand is part of our character. And that quest has brought tangible benefits that improve our lives in countless ways.”
These include medical technologies such as procedures to take clear images of tumors and other abnormalities, to develop kidney dialysis machines, and pacemakers that can be programmed to monitor heartbeat fluctuations.
Satellites developed by the space program made it possible to send and receive television, telephone, and Internet signals from anywhere in the world. “Yet for all these successes,” said President Bush, “much remains for us to explore and to learn”:
“America has not developed a new vehicle to advance human exploration in space in nearly a quarter century. It is time for America to take the next steps.”
The U.S., says President Bush, will “invite other nations to share the challenges and opportunities of this new era of discovery”:
“The vision I outline today is a journey, not a race, and I call on other nations to join us on this journey, in a spirit of cooperation and friendship.”
Robotic missions will serve as trailblazers. “Yet,” as President Bush put it, “we need to see and examine and touch for ourselves. And only human beings are capable of adapting to the inevitable uncertainties posed by space travel.”