President Bush’s new vision outlines missions and priorities for the space program that hold the potential for revitalizing national interest in space exploration.
“The scientific value for the country from a vigorous space program is immense,” Dr. Robert Jastrow, chair of the Marshall Institute, said. Jastrow was the first Chairman of the NASA Lunar Exploration Committee and is a recipient of the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.
“Greater focus on scientific activities in space will develop a new generation of scientists and engineers sorely needed for defense and commercial space efforts,” Jastrow noted. “Construction of a base on the moon will also yield enormous scientific returns. For example, construction of a network of modest-sized telescopes at the lunar base, spread over a ten-mile area, would yield pictures of the universe 1000-times sharper and more detailed than images astronomers can obtain from the surface of the Earth. In other words, we will be able to spot an object the size of a dime at a distance of 1 million miles. We will also be able to see planets circling other stars. There is some evidence for these planets, but up till now, no one has actually seen one.”
“This network of telescopes will require frequent readjustment of their position relative to each other with an accuracy of 1000th of an inch,” Jastrow noted. “For that reason, a manned presence on the moon is critical.”
The President’s call for further exploration of Mars has profound implications for the search for other life in the universe. Evidence of life on Mars would mean that life has started on two planets in one solar system and that the chance of finding life on any planet is quite high. “If we find evidence of life on Mars, then the probability of finding life on other worlds increases dramatically,” Jastrow said.
“There are trillions stars within the boundaries of the known universe. According to the best information, that means there are trillions of planets,” Jastrow continued. “The majority of those planets are billions of years older than Earth and more advanced in their evolution. Study of those other planets will tell us much about the Earth’s future and the future of humankind.”
“The Marshall Institute reviewed the first President Bush’s proposals for new moon and Mars missions in the early 1990s,” Jeff Kueter, the Institute’s Executive Director, said, referring to published reports suggesting a strong linkage between the two proposals. “We look forward to learning more details about the new proposal. Implementing such an ambitious plan will be extremely challenging and we plan to update our original analysis to account for the proposed activities.”
The earlier report, New Directions in Space: A Report on the Lunar and Mars Initiatives, outlined the returns that could reasonably be expected from new manned missions to the moon and Mars and assessed the technical and organizational capabilities required to successfully complete those missions. Copies of the report are available by contacting the Marshall Institute at 202.296.9655.