Bruce Murray, Chairman of the Board of The Planetary Society, and Wesley T. Huntress, the Society's President will testify to the House Science Committee on Thursday, October 16 on the Future of Space Flight. Dr. Murray is former Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dr. Huntress is the former Associate Administrator for Space Science at NASA.
Both Dr. Murray and Dr. Huntress emphasize that the risk and cost of human space flight for any nation should only be incurred when the goals are large enough to justify them, such as the exploration of other worlds.
Their testimony coincides with the anticipated launch of China's first human space flight. China will become only the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to launch humans to space. Speculation in various media sources and analysts' reports about long-range Chinese plans for space flight include future lunar missions.
Dr. Murray will comment "Mars is the true space frontier; it is the legitimate abode for the dreams of the young for many generations to come. Thus, America should lead the world in that grand, positive human endeavor. We can use some of our enormous and visible technological capability to dramatically demonstrate our commitment to Earth's future beyond the blood and conflict which inevitably will color much of the 21st century."
Dr. Huntress will say, "The human space flight program is marching into a blind alley, stuck in Earth orbit with an expensive, complex and risky infrastructure not designed to support destinations beyond Earth orbit. We need to establish Mars as a destination for human space flight in the next 50 years; retire the Shuttle in favor of a simpler, less risky and less costly system; limit the Space Station to research on human physiology in space; and devise a new architecture to establish a permanent human presence in deep space."
Dr. Murray's testimony will focus strongly on the need to combine the human and robotic Mars exploration programs as the mission objectives evolve from exploration through development of infrastructure and possible outposts to human flight. Murray has led The Planetary Society's advocacy of Mars Outpost development - both as a goal for the robotic program and as an enabling step for human exploration.
Huntress cites his current leadership of a study of the International Academy of Astronautics, "The Next Steps in Exploring Deep Space." That study is developing an approach for the future of human space flight leading to Mars. Huntress drew on his experience at NASA from the 1990s when he was a key architect of both the reinvigorated Mars exploration program and of NASA's Human Exploration and Development of Space initiative that holds, as its goal, to make human space exploration a major element of subsequent missions to Mars.
Their full congressional testimony will be presented to the Committee tomorrow and will be available on The Planetary Society web site. The web site also will carry a link to a live webcast of the proceedings. Additionally, the site includes such background information as the conclusions and recommendations from a workshop about the future of human space transportation endorsed by the Society and the American Astronautical Society.