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US mulls returning people to the moon
www.chinaview.cn 2003-12-06 06:59:05

กก WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (Xinhuanet) -- The Bush administration has been reviewing its space policy and is considering sending Americans back to the moon after an absence of three decades, US newspapers reported Friday.

    An interagency group led by the White House has been working since August on a blueprint for interplanetary human flight over the next 20 to 30 years to give US space agency NASA a new missionafter space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on Feb. 1.

    Options that have been considered by the administration includea manned lunar mission, a permanent outpost on the moon and a human mission to Mars.

    "Although much of the scientific and emotional focus has been on Mars over the past decade, the buzz inside NASA has seemed to shift toward a return of man to the moon," The Washington Post said in a report.

    The era of US lunar exploration began with the announcement by President John Kennedy in 1961 to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth in a decade, highlighted with Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin becoming the first men ever stepped onto the lunar soil and ended with the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

    Advocates of a revived lunar program argued that the moon couldbe useful as a base for developing technologies, for astronomical observations and for human rehearsals for operating in space.

    Others, however, found the idea of sending Americans back to the moon "embarrassing" and "farcical."

    "Really, how do you inspire the youth of today with a challengerepeating feats their grandparents did?" asked Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society.

    Writing Friday in The New York Times, Apollo 11 crew Aldrin said "a moon shot alone seems more like reaching for past glory than striving for new triumphs."

    "Instead, I think the next step in our space program should be to create a floating launching pad for manned and unmanned missions to the moon, Mars and beyond," he said.

    The National Review magazine reported Wednesday that Bush may make a major space policy announcement as early as on Dec. 17 in North Carolina in a speech recognizing the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight by the Wright brothers.

    But White House spokesman Scott McClellan said any speculationsabout a new US space initiative was premature.

    "There are no plans for any policy announcements in the immediate future, and that would include any upcoming speeches," he told reporters on Thursday. Enditem

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