Space exploration will help the United States to remain
economically competitive and maintain world leadership, according
to Thomas P. Stafford, the former astronaut from Weatherford.
But to do this, America needs the "best trained and best
educated workforce, the most advanced technology and the strongest
leadership," Stafford says.
Space exploration will excite young minds and get students more
interested in science and mathematics, subjects no longer dominated
by American students, he said.
Writing in the foreward to "America at the Threshold. .
.America's Space Exploration Initiative," Stafford, a retired U.S.
Air Force lieutenant general and an experienced space traveler in
the Gemini and Apollo programs, said there are times when seemingly
small decisions make great changes.
"Now is such a time," he wrote. "The decisions we make now for
space will set the nation's course for decades, if not centuries to
come. The legacy we leave to future generations may well be decided
in these next few years.
"Space is clearly our most challenging frontier. Enroute to
Mars, we will explore the Moon, advance Earth sciences and develop
new, innovative technologies. We will tap into lunar, Martian and
solar energy resources as we explore the heights of human talent
"Along the way, America's drive, initiative, ingenuity and
technology _ all those things that have made our nation the most
successful society on Earth _ will propel us toward a future of
peace, strength and prosperity.
The challenge is before us." But before space exploration and
commercialization can begin, there must be "routine, reliable and
affordable access to space," the report said.
President George Bush, speaking on the 20th anniversary of the
first manned Moon landing, called for such exploration, first a
return to the Moon and exploration of Mars by 2019, the 50th
anniversary of the first Moon landing.
Shortly after this call, Vice President Dan Quayle called upon
Stafford to put together a study group to outline how this would be
The Synthesis Group, composed of senior leaders of military and
civilian governmental agencies, academia and industry, is the
result. Its report provides "this generation a robust, safe and
affordable future in space while ensuring the greatest benefit for
mankind on Earth," Stafford wrote to Quayle.
The report, compiled by Synthesis Group, sets out six "visions"
of space travel, several architectures or exploration programs, and
makes 10 recommendations for achieving the goal of manned
exploration of Mars by 2019.
It also called upon the President to sign an executive order
establishing a special space exploration program office which would
oversee all development, coordination of governmental agencies
involved and procurement of materials. It also would establish
procedures for awarding contracts for hardware acquisition.
"Visions for America," as set out in the report are:
Knowledge of our universe _ We strive to understand the origin
and history of our Solar System, the origin of life and the
ultimate fate of our universe. People are the best explorers, but
they often need machines to help. The Space Exploration Initiative
is an integrated program of missions by humans and robots to
explore, to understand and to gain knowledge of the universe and
our place in it.
Advancement in science and engineering _ Returning to the Moon,
and onward to Mars, will require the best engineering and
scientific talent our nation can muster. Through a long-range
commitment to space, we will stimulate our national education
system and inspire students to learn. …