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New vision for space program

Published by under Cosmos,News categories on January 18, 2009

Gemini XII Space walk (background earth surface)A team led by MIT researchers have released the most comprehensive independent review of the future of NASA spaceflight program undertaken in many years. The report recommends setting loftier goals for humans in space, focusing research more clearly toward those goals, and increasing cooperation with other nations and private industry.

 The United States stands at the threshold of a new era of human spaceflight. In its first term, the new administration will make the most important decisions in a generation about this endeavor. What are those decisions, and how should they be made in the best interests of the country?

• When should the United States retire the Space Shuttle?
• How should the nation utilize the International Space Station?
• Should the United States return to the moon? If so, how and on what schedule?
• How should future plans balance the moon, Mars, and other possible destinations?

Ultimately, these decisions derive from the larger question: Why fly people into space? These are some of the key recommendations from the MIT report:

Congress and the White House should reduce the “too much with too little” pressure on NASA by ensuring that resources match expectations. They should begin a public conversation on the ethics and acceptable risk of human spaceflight at current levels of support and ambition.

NASA should continue to support commercial and European development of crew and cargo alternatives, particularly for cargo return.

The United States should develop a broad, funded plan to utilize the International Space Station through 2020 for research, including development of technologies to support exploration for both moon missions and long-duration Mars flights.

A new human spaceflight policy should clarify the balance between the moon, Mars, and other destinations. It should be more, not less ambitious. A new policy should also review the Constellation (shuttle replacement) architecture to ensure compatibility with long-range exploration missions.

NASA should re-establish a fundamental research program focused on science and technology for human spaceflight and exploration.

The United States should begin engagement with China on human spaceflight in a series of small steps, gradually building up trust and cooperation.


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