The President's Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, more commonly known as the Moon to Mars Commission, will issue their official report on Wednesday, June 16, 2004.
The Planetary Society has issued a statement on that report applauding the Commission's recommendation that the United States' space exploration vision must be managed as a significant national priority and as a shared commitment of the President, Congress and the American people. However, the Society questions the absence of two very important elements in the report - a significant role for international partners and a technical assessment of realistic space transportation alternatives, which are essential for any program to be both affordable and credible.
The Commission commented on international cooperation but mentioned it specifically only as a business proposition, calling it "tapping into the global marketplace." The Planetary Society believes that many reasons call for an international partnership approach:
"We prefer a true partnership approach in which American intellectual, cultural, and political leadership builds a world-wide constituency for the extraordinary vision of humans from Earth traveling to another world 'in peace, for all mankind.' Europe, Russia, Japan and several international organizations have been developing their own approaches for such a goal, and we urge they be brought into the planning as quickly as possible in order to make this a true international partnership. China, upon becoming only the third nation to orbit a human, is already asserting that lunar exploration is a real goal for them." Planetary Society Statement.
The Commission cited three imperatives for success of an exploration program: sustainability, affordability and credibility. The Planetary Society agrees with those imperatives, but also feels that any plan must focus clearly on engineering and technical matters as well.
"In the five months since the new space exploration policy was announced, the shuttle return-to-flight date estimate has slipped by about one year. The affordability of the entire program depends upon the retirement of the shuttle and the changes necessary to move toward an exploration-driven human space program." Planetary Society Statement.
The Planetary Society also supports the Commission's call for public and private investment, but the Commission itself stated that "the public owns the vision."
"The private sector has a mixed record on protecting public ownership, and privatization in space must be balanced with issues of safety, and long-range technological development that are traditional government responsibilities. Inherently, exploration on this scale must be a government enterprise that requires a clear political mandate and consensus." Planetary Society Statement.
The Planetary Society urges that greater public involvement - both in the US and beyond its borders - and broader public benefits be key parts of the new policy.
"While the spiritual, emotional and intellectual appeal of exploration and discovery do not alone drive the rationale for exploration, we should not forget the integral part these elements play in humanity's journey beyond Earth," stated Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society.
THREE PLANETARY SOCIETY STUDIES
The Planetary Society will soon issue the results of three studies it has conducted dealing with the technical content of going to the Moon and Mars:
A transportation architecture for fulfilling U.S. needs for human space flight capability to Earth orbit and beyond, prepared by former astronaut Owen Garriott and aerospace veteran Mike Griffin;
A Russian report on alternative architecture for flights to the Moon and Mars, utilizing Russia's experience in human space flight;
·A proposal for international partnership in achieving an interim goal -- the construction of a lunar test-bed for planetary outposts.