The United States may soon establish a permanent outpost on the moon and send human beings to Mars if President George Bush accepts NASA's tentative schedule for space exploration, the past director of NASA says.
The long-range plan will be delivered to the White House next month and will include plans for a lunar outpost on the moon and the human exploration of Mars, said James C. Fletcher.Fletcher, who retired from NASA in April, spoke Friday during Brigham Young University Homecoming Week activities.
SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, is another program that will be emphasized in the future, he said. "I think it's time we are looking for intelligent life out in our own galaxy. Hopefully within your lifetime, and within mine, we will receive signals from life within our galaxy."
The space program came to a sudden halt following the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, but Fletcher said it is back on track.
The only person to direct NASA twice, Fletcher was recalled in 1986 to rebuild the space program after the Challenger disaster. His first stint was from 1971 to 1977.
"The Challenger was the first accident we had in space," he said. "It was a shock to the world and me personally. But about a year ago we were able to recover the space shuttle program" with the launching of Discovery.
"After 2 1/2 years, it made my day to see them land," he said. "We have reorganized and have a number of good programs."
Following the Challenger disaster, Fletcher said Astronaut Sally Ride developed the Ride Report to outline four possible missions for NASA, one of which has now been accepted by Bush.
One mission was to land an expeditionary force on the moon. Another was to make a one-time visit to Mars. The third was to systematically explore the solar system and the last was a mission to look at changes on Earth.
Bush, a space buff, chose the fourth mission and it is that plan that NASA is presently working on, Fletcher said.
"As soon as he came in office there was an emphasis to try and put more meat on the bones of the national space policy," Fletcher said.
At this year's 20th anniversary of the first landing of man on the moon, Bush announced that the United States would establish a permanent presence on the moon and send humans to Mars.