NASA's program for human exploration must lead to Mars and beyond, and achieving that goal will require future presidents to embrace international collaboration and to fund NASA at a level that will also sustain its vital science programs, stated the organizers of a space exploration workshop today after intensive discussions Feb 12 and 13.
"This workshop achieved a consensus that NASA's resources have not been commensurate with its mandated missions of exploration and science," said G. Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA's Ames Research Laboratory and a consulting professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford.
"The next administration should make the human spaceflight goal an international venture focused on Mars -- both to bring in more public support and to sustain the program politically," added Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society.
Friedman; Hubbard; Kathryn Thornton, a former astronaut and current professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia; and Wesley T. Huntress, Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington co-organized the workshop.
The Workshop Joint Communiqué
In particular, the attendees agreed to the following set of six statements:
It is time to go beyond LEO with people as explorers. The purpose of sustained human exploration is to go to Mars and beyond. The significance of the Moon and other intermediate destinations is to serve as steppingstones on the path to that goal.
Bringing together scientists, astronauts, engineers, policy analysts, and industry executives in a single conversation created an environment where insights across traditional boundaries occurred.
Human space exploration is undertaken to serve national and international interests. It provides important opportunities to advance science, but science is not the primary motivation.
Sustained human exploration requires enhanced international collaboration and offers the United States an opportunity for global leadership.
NASA has not received the budget increases to support the mandated human exploration program as well as other vital parts of the NASA portfolio, including space science, aeronautics, technology requirements, and especially Earth observations, given the urgency of global climate change.
Additional recommendations will be provided by the organizers and participants in this workshop.
About the workshop
The two-day workshop, co-sponsored by The Planetary Society and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University, was an invitation-only meeting of 45 space exploration experts, including top scientists, former NASA officials, and leading aerospace industry executives. Eight of the attendees are former astronauts (for more information, see http://soe.stanford.edu/research/evlist.html or download a PDF (84K) of the agenda).
The group gathered privately to engage in a frank, wide-ranging discussion of the Bush administration’s vision for space exploration and the policy options facing the new administration that will take office in January 2009.
Topics discussed by the attendees in a series of 90-minute panels included scientific exploration; earth science and climate change; lunar exploration; sending humans to Mars; alternate human exploration destinations; humans versus robots for exploration; vehicles for accessing low-earth orbits and beyond; emerging entrepreneurial space activity; and international collaboration.
"The Space Shuttle has been an incredible workhorse in low earth orbit for more than 25 years, but now it is time for humans to move out into the solar system," Thornton said.