Veel nieuws de afgelopen week over de toekomst van de ruimtevaart. Zo wil Hilton een hotel op maan bouwen. De NASA denkt over een onbemande vlucht naar Jupitermaan Europa in 2003, terwijl de regering Clinton verder schrapt in het budget van de NASA voor het fiscale jaar 1999.

Moet ruimtevaart zo nodig? Willen we wel naar de maan of Mars? Op Koninginnedag 30 april vindt een discussie plaats over het nut van bemande ruimtevaart bij Barend & Witteman, Nederland 3. 19.25-19.51 u. Ook ASTRONET's webmaster is daarbij gesprekspartner, want fervent voorstander van bemande ruimtevaart.

In De Telegraaf van zaterdag 25 april stond eveneens een uitgebreid artikel over bemande ruimtevaart met als thema 'de maan als vakantieparadijs'.

Barron Hilton: Hotels in Space (1967)

From the Planetary Society home page:

Washington Reins in NASA's Budget

April 21, 1998

Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Human Exploration of Mars May Be in Jeopardy

While the Clinton administration's overall budget for NASA in fiscal year 1999 once again declines, it does contain a modest increase in funding for space science -- from $1.983 billion in fiscal year 1998 to $2.058 in fiscal year 1999 -- that must be safeguarded, according to Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society.

"The budget allows NASA to meet its obligations and fund a new mission start to explore Europa, the moon of Jupiter that may have an ocean capable of supporting life," Friedman said in testimony to a house appropriations subcommittee. "The slight increase is minimal considering the extraordinary results and opportunities in space science."

The orbiter to Europa is scheduled for launch in 2003. It will measure the thickness of the moon's surface ice and seek to determine whether a liquid ocean exists below. Other instruments will examine the interior processes. In our solar system, Europa and Mars are the best candidates for having conditions that might be conducive to life. As a consequence, they are a priority in the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Robotic and Human Exploration

The Planetary Society also urges members of Congress to appropriate an additional $42 million in new funding so NASA's Office of Space Flight can participate in the Mars 2001 lander mission as originally planned.

Budget pressures within NASA recently forced the office of space flight to withdraw its participation in the mission. It earlier had agreed to provide $57 million for several experiments. But because of a shortfall in available funding, the office cannot now afford the financial contribution. The office of space science is now managing the experiments, although its budget was augmented by only $15 million, introducing severe technical constraints in the mission.

Having the office of space flight participate in robotic missions is important for many reasons, Friedman said. Working together cross-fertilizes engineering and operations to promote innovative designs. The advanced technologies for robotic spacecraft have applications for human exploration missions and vice versa. The integration also will enhance scientific objectives.

"It is critical for engineers to better understand the separate capabilities of humans and robotic technology," Friedman said. "As now envisioned, a future crew on Mars will rely heavily on robotic tools to explore the planet and collect scientific data. Building bridges between the two offices will ensure future success."

Public Supports Exploration

Sixty-eight percent of the public believe it was "worth it" to send humans to explore the Moon in the Apollo Program, according to a July 1997 poll by CBS News. Fifty-four percent favor "sending astronauts to explore Mars." In a Roper poll (7/11/97), 62 percent of the public said they would support "the United States sending astronauts to explore Mars."

"Clearly, a human Mars mission on some time scale is a goal backed by a large majority of Americans," Friedman said.

The Clinton Administration recently attempted to restrict investments in research for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Members of Congress and space organizations, including The Planetary Society, voiced opposition to the new directive and it was rescinded. Until 1996, the National Space Policy contained language establishing as a goal of America the human exploration of the Moon, then Mars. But this provision was removed by the Clinton Administration. As a consequence, activities at NASA in support of eventual human exploration beyond low Earth orbit are being challenged.

"If the United States is not preparing to explore the Moon and Mars," Friedman said, "why then are we building the space station in the first place? When the space station is completed early in the next century, astronauts will be all dressed up with no place to go."

Friedman said our nation cannot afford to sit on its hands until the station's assembly is completed before determining our next step in space.

"We must not build fences at low Earth orbit, fearing to venture beyond," Friedman said. "Americans rise to great challenges. They want to be emboldened to have their spirit enlivened. By stabilizing NASA's budget, the agency can focus all its attention on managing programs, not budget cuts. NASA must have the wherewithal to make investments in future technology. We must begin now to establish a coherent vision for our nation following the completion of the space station."

Overall Budget

Every year since 1992, NASA's budget has been cut. The Clinton Administration is seeking to reduce spending in fiscal year 1999 by another $173 million. The rollback, when accounting for inflation, totals $445 million. Friedman said NASA deserves better. The space agency has enacted far-reaching reforms. It is innovating advanced technologies in aeronautics, space transportation, human exploration, and space science, which are being transferred to the marketplace to maintain America's economic health.

"There is a limit to what NASA can withstand and still remain successful," Friedman said in Congressional testimony. "Budgets are now being squeezed to a breaking point, sapping vitality. The time is long past to stabilize NASA's funding. Our nation's space program merits no less."

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