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Press Room

Space Experts Say: Put Humans on Mars While Sustaining NASA's Science Mission


Mat Kaplan
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

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:

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 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.


About the Planetary Society

Celebrating 35 years, The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. With the mission to empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded the Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a longtime member of the Planetary Society's Board, serves as CEO.