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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 January, 2004, 14:02 GMT
Space plans: Bold vision or big flop?
The president says he wants to get to know Mars better
US President George Bush's plans for a renewed mission of space exploration grabbed headlines - but in this election year, did they get the thumbs-up?

Here are extracts of responses from the American press on Thursday.

  • William J Broad, the New York Times:

    The history of bold visions for human spaceflight is littered with more failures, delays and cost overruns than clear successes...

    President Bush has resolved Nasa's vision problem
    Washington Post
    It is a legacy that President Bush... hopes to overcome. The broad goals are the same as those his father proposed as president in 1989, but the new plan is more hedged, giving no firm date for the Mars venture and deferring the need for big spending increases until after what would be Mr. Bush's second term. In part, it seeks to make vagueness a virtue, which is giving some space experts the jitters.

  • Kathy Sawyer, the Washington Post:

    President Bush has resolved Nasa's vision problem. The US human spaceflight program has its long-awaited mandate to head out into the solar system after 30 years of going in circles around the home planet.

    But... [in] the absence of the Cold War urgency that drove the 1960s space race, Bush has outlined a tortoise-like pace, dictated by severe budget constraints, that allows a full decade just to develop a vehicle that would, once again, deliver people to the moon - something Apollo engineers accomplished, starting from scratch, in about eight years.

    What the plan lacks in momentum and flash, however, it makes up in political shrewdness.

  • Mark Morford, SFGate.com:

    Dubya will, by every account, go down as the worst environmental president in American history... You can bet your big snakeskin Texas cowboy boots he wants this "big ol' Mars thingy" to be some sort of, you know, legacy. He wants his name in the history books as the one who decided to meet the little green men. He wants to stick a flag in the rusty planet and claim it in the name of, you know, Ronald Reagan.

    When the huge cost is raised, US attitudes come back down to earth
    Christian Science Monitor
    This from a man who never cared a whit for space exploration in his entire spoon-fed career, a man who never even once visited the famed Johnson Space Center in Houston while serving as Texas governor.

  • Christian Science Monitor:

    For decades, the concept of travel to the moon and beyond has tapped into that dreamy, know-no-limits side of the American psyche. Just as predictably, when the huge cost is raised, US attitudes come back down to earth. Polls show that public support drops then down to a modest minority.

    This is the challenge President Bush faces as he promotes his plan for renewed space exploration: selling the idea to a public that, when reminded, believes the billions of dollars it would cost should be spent elsewhere.

  • Ralph Vartabedian and Peter Pae, Los Angeles Times:

    The Bush administration's goal of returning man to the moon would trigger the most tumultuous reorganization at NASA since the agency was created, threatening major cuts at its research facilities across the country.

    ...The financial commitment made by Bush falls far short of what would be needed to start a major moon program, experts agree. The $11 billion would come out of existing NASA programs that would be curtailed or killed.

  • Ephraim Levin, Philadelphia Daily News:

    As it now stands, the space program is very, very expensive, produces little or no material benefits. In reality, it is used to massage America's ego and self-esteem.

    There are more important things to do besides finding out if bagels and cream cheese ever existed on Mars.

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