Washington, Nov 14 : The Planetary Society has outlined a vigorous new approach to space exploration for the consideration of the new U.S. Administration and Congress to develop a flexible space program that is designed to achieve more, cost less, and engage the entire world.
Called "Beyond the Moon: A New Roadmap for Human Space Exploration in the 21st Century", the plan calls for the United States to create, in cooperation with international partners, a space program that is as inspiring as it is sustainable in the world's current economic climate.
The roadmap for the new space program was recently presented at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
The key elements of the plan include focusing on Mars as the driving goal of human spaceflight, and deferring humans landing on the Moon until the costs of the interplanetary transportation system and shuttle replacement are largely paid.
It also calls for accelerating research into global climate change through more comprehensive Earth observations, and achieving a step-by-step approach of new achievements in interplanetary flight, including a human mission to a near-Earth object.
In short, the roadmap calls for "A new and flexible program, based on a series of important first-time achievements and an international commitment to exploration and discovery."
International cooperation is strongly recommended both to reduce costs for any one nation and to increase public interest and support.
After reading the Roadmap, Apollo 11 Astronaut Buzz Aldrin agreed that leadership, change and cooperation were needed in the U.S. human space flight program.
"U.S. landings on the Moon should be deferred so that they can be part of an international base on the Moon preparing the way for permanent settlement of Mars," he said.
He also called for earlier steps to Mars, including human visits to a near-Earth object and humans operating on a Martian moon preparatory to the Mars settlement.
"I am glad these steps to eventual permanent occupation of Mars were included in The Planetary Society's Roadmap," he added.
According to Cornell University Professor and planetary scientist Jim Bell, "This is clearly a time of national and international economic uncertainty. Whatever the long-term impact of this turmoil may be on the U.S. national budget, we believe that a strong, sustainable space program must remain an important national and international priority."
"Space exploration is a peaceful global enterprise that fosters a skilled workforce, stimulates new technologies, and leads to important new discoveries about our planet and the other worlds around us. Moreover, space exploration motivates new generations of scientists and engineers."