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MOON AND MARS?

"President Bush will unveil a new American space initiative next week that is expected to include building a permanent base on the moon and later sending astronauts to Mars," the Los Angeles Times (and many others) report.But don't expect a liftoff schedule in Bush's announcement. Speaking to the New York Times, an administration official "cautioned that the proposal could be broad and open-ended, more in the nature of 'a mission statement' rather than a detailed road map."Space blogger Rand Simberg isn't happy about the upcoming announcement."There's no evidence that NASA has been, or can be, reformed sufficiently to entrust it with such a project," he says.Strangely, Louis Friedman,executive director of the Planetary Society, isn't that psyched, either."A program that returns us to the moon and bogs us down, the same way the space station has bogged us down in low Earth orbit, would be terrible," he tells the L.A. Times.But John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, thinks the moon is worth it, saying, "There is lots we have to learn before we go to Mars."Me, I'm just happy to see space begin to get back some of the focus it so badly deserves. Look at history, and countries that explored, prospered. Maybe not immediately. But in the long run. Mars and beyond is the greatest exploration we can take.THERE'S MORE: NASA Watchers Frank Sietzen and Keith Cowing say they have details on the Bush plan, which they claim will be announced next Wednesday. Moon landings would begin in 2013."To pay for the new effort -- which would require a new generation of spacecraft but use Europe's Ariane rockets and Russia's Soyuz capsules in the interim -- NASA's space shuttle fleet would be retired as soon as construction of the International Space Station is completed," the pair write.However, a senior NASA official cautions Defense Tech to take these detailed reports with a big hepling of salt."Don't believe all you read," the official counsels.

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