APS News

Executive Board Urges Review of Moon/Mars Mission Proposal

At its June meeting, the APS Executive Board passed a resolution expressing reservations about the Moon/Mars initiative announced earlier this year by President Bush.

Among the concerns was that "the rapid pace currently envisioned for this program may require a wide redistribution of the science and technology budgets that could significantly alter the broad scientific priorities carefully defined for NASA."

The Board urged that "an exhaustive external review of the plans should be carried out by the National Academy of Sciences and their likely budgetary impact estimated by the General Accounting Office."

This resolution expresses the opinion of the Board, but does not constitute a policy statement by the APS. Such a statement can only be issued by the APS Council, whose next meeting will be in November.

The text of the Executive Board resolution follows:

Reestablishing a human presence on the Moon and sending astronauts to Mars represents a major national challenge. However such a program could only achieve its full significance as part of a balanced program of scientific exploration of the universe and studies of the interaction between humankind and its environment. In recent years, NASA has captured the public's imagination through its spectacular scientific successes with the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mars rovers, and Explorer missions that have revolutionized our understanding of the universe.

The technical hurdles facing the Moon-Mars initiative are formidable, and the program's overall costs are still unknown. Further, the rapid pace currently envisioned for this program may require a wide redistribution of the science and technology budgets that could significantly alter the broad scientific priorities carefully defined for NASA and the other federal agencies. Launching such a massive program without broad consultation and a clear idea of its scope and budget may hurt rather than enhance, as intended, the scientific standing of the US and the training of its scientists and engineers.

Before the United States commits to President Bush's proposal, an exhaustive external review of the plans should be carried out by the National Academy of Sciences and their likely budgetary impact estimated by the General Accounting Office.


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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette