Dr. Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society, will testify to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Wednesday, January 28, 2004 regarding America's new national space policy directive.
The directive's inspiring goal -- to extend human presence across the solar system -- raises the bar for planning future human missions. The human space program has been stuck in Earth orbit for more than 30 years. The new policy puts it on a path towards Mars.
"The goal and vision are terrific," said Friedman, but he also cautioned that "a great deal of public, political and international constituency building will be required."
The Planetary Society has long advocated many of the steps outlined in the national space policy directive:
Retiring the shuttle quickly after completion of the International Space Station,
Separating crew and cargo in both launch vehicles and transportation,
Building a new crew vehicle for missions beyond low Earth orbit, and
Conducting scientific robotic exploration across the solar system.
Mars is the logical goal for human exploration as well as robotic. In fact, sending robotic explorers to the Red Planet is a necessary precursor to sending humans. Friedman urges in his congressional testimony that "a Mars Outpost be set up robotically at a potential human landing site for emplacing robotic infrastructure that can increase reliability and safety and lower cost for the human mission."
While The Planetary Society supports the goals outlined in the Presidents plan, it is concerned about some of the lunar activities suggested in the policy. The Society recommends that further study and cost analysis about the use of lunar resources is needed before any lunar program is initiated.
"We cannot afford to get bogged down on the Moon as we have in Earth orbit for the past three decades," warned Friedman.
The Society also urged that international cooperation be sought, especially with the several nations currently conducting or planning lunar missions. The Society believes that the eventual human missions will require international cooperation, and that cooperating on and coordinating robotic lunar missions now will help start the process. Europe has a mission on the way to the Moon, and Japan, India and China all are planning lunar missions.
The Society statement notes that the Administration, Congress and NASA have much work ahead to finalize the details of the space exploration blueprint that will eventually land humans on Mars. But they cited the enthusiastic response to the recent rover missions landing on Mars as evidence of strong public support.
"Opportunity and Spirit are stunning reminders of the scientific and public significance of exploration," said Bruce Murray, The Planetary Society's Chairman of the Board. "With the new national space policy directive, exploring new frontiers can once again become the centerpiece of NASA."
The full text of Friedman's Senate testimony will be posted on Wednesday, January 28 on The Planetary Society's website